Boynton’s mental health committee gets green light
By Attiyya Anthony, Sun Sentinel
April 18, 2014
Boynton Beach plans to do all it can to help its residents with mental health issues.
That’s why on Wednesday, at the city’s meeting, the commission unanimously agreed to create a seven-person citizen’s advisory committee focused on mental health outreach.
The committee will be the first in Palm Beach County on a city level. The county has its own mental health committee, said Dr. Seth Bernstein of The Action Alliance for Mental Health in Palm Beach County.
"I’m very supportive of the citizen’s advisory committee," Bernstein said at the meeting. "I couldn’t find another city in the county that’s doing it."
Mayor Jerry Taylor requested that the item be put on the agenda at an April meeting. Taylor suggested the city create an advisory board, but staff recommended a citizen’s committee so members could talk to each other without violating the Sunshine Law.
Taylor hopes that the committee will allow people with mental health issues to get the help they need, so they can avoid suicide, homelessness, bullying and joblessness.
"Mental illness is recognized as a prevalent health problem in America exceeding cancer, lung disease, heart disease and obesity combined," Taylor said at the meeting.
City officials hope that the committee will be composed of business leaders, community members and mental health providers. The committee will reach out to people who are suffering from schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder and substance abuse.
"I applaud you [Mayor Jerry Taylor] for being proactive, not reactive," said Commissioner Mack McCray. "As we watch the news daily, we see there is a great need."
The public responded during the public hearing.
"I think that [mental health] is an under emphasized aspect of life in the city," said resident John McGovern. "I’m very happy to see this."
Former Commissioner Woodrow Hay said: "I’m in full support of this. What a wonderful move for the city and I applaud the city for going forward with this."
Hay even volunteered himself to serve on the committee.
Commissioner David Merker said that because substance abuse is a major cause of mental health issues that the City Commission should be drug tested to set an example.
At the April 1 city meeting, Merker urged the commission to get drug tested, but his request was denied.
"A great cause of mental health is drug addiction," Merker said. "If we want to move forward to help those mentally troubled, drug testing is definitely a way."
On Wednesday, Merker brought the results of his personal drug test, taken on April 8.
"I’m proud to state that I’m clean," he said.
Copyright © 2014, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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