The Chatham County Board of Commissioners recognized community-based suicide prevention and resiliency-building efforts with a proclamation in September, which is suicide prevention awareness month. Ms. Tara Jennings, Strategic Planning Administrator at Chatham County, accepted the proclamation on behalf of community partners working together to build a suicide safer Chatham County.
The proclamation was shared with Ms. Lizann Roberts, Executive Director of Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition (CGIC), in recognition of her strategic leadership and fundraising accomplishments supporting mental health, suicide prevention, and resiliency-building initiatives in the community.
“Ms. Roberts is a key partner and leader whose vision, energy, and ability to bring community stakeholders together have been essential in creating sustainable and impactful programs,” said Ms. Vira Salzburn, Program Director for Safety & Resilience Programs at Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council (CCSNPC). “She is a wonderful partner and always willing to drive change through real collaboration.”
“We appreciate Ms. Roberts and her unwavering support of the Planning Council,” said Mr. Reginald Lee, CCSNPC Executive Director. “We are looking forward to continuing our work and making a difference in the lives of our residents.”
Read the proclamation here.
CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. – Remote Area Medical-RAM® Free Dental Clinic hosted by the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council (Planning Council) provided a free dental care pop-up clinic on August 28-29th for Chatham County residents at the Garden City Recreation Center.
In just 2 days, more than 100 volunteers treated 174 underserved and uninsured individuals providing $77,513 worth of free oral health services including cleanings, extractions, fillings, and root canals. Additionally, 165 oral health cancer screening were completed by faculty and students from the Georgia Southern University, Communication Sciences and Disorders program.
Patients were also able to receive COVID-19 vaccines and learn about various community programs and services from the participating vendors, to include Rape Crisis Center, The Salvation Army, St. Joseph’s/Candler African American Resource Center, Migrant Equity Southeast, Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE), and Communications and Disorders master’s program at Georgia Southern University.
The clinic received financial and in-kind support from Chatham County Board of Commissioners, City of Savannah, Remote Area Medical-RAM®, Agenda Latina, The Savannah Community Foundation, Academy of General Dentistry Foundation, and Bio-One.
Tears of relief and and happy smiles from grateful patients spoke to the importance of providing accessible and affordable oral health services and addressing health disparities in the community.
The Planning Council’s Executive Director, Mr. Reginald Lee, who wholeheartedly and successfully led this effort with a great team of professionals and volunteers, thanks all of the partners and supporters of the Free Dental Clinic.
On a small stage in Savannah, Georgia, an officer with the city’s police department puts his improv skills to the test Wednesday in an acting class. In part, the class was meant to teach the students about observational awareness while also fostering community relations.
Anthony Watkins is an officer with the Savannah Police Department who took part in the class. The improv drill asked participants in the class to pretend they’re on a bus and to mimic the bus driver’s overly theatrical behaviors.
“I think as far as what I’m learning today, this is just not my comfort zone,” Watkins told “Nightline.” “Even being in this class for a short time today is just kind of pushing me to work and operate in a way that I would never have thought of before.”
The exercise, which requires participants to observe the driver and act on social cues, made Watkins feel stressed, he said. But he also sees the benefit of being taken out of his comfort zone.
“I think, as police officers, we’re always taught to be that authority … figure that is taking charge on scene and wanting to move in one specific direction,” Watkins told “Nightline.” “[The training] is kind of important to break us out of our comfort zone to where we can really achieve a personal connection. … Once you have that personal connection, it kind of creates a bond where a more peaceful resolution could be achieved.”
Watkins took part in the training amid a week of protests following the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Wright was killed during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, just miles away from where George Floyd died last year and where his accused murderer, ex-police officer Derek Chauvin, is currently standing trial.
Wright, a father to a 2-year-old boy, was killed Sunday by Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who claimed she’d mistaken her handgun for a stun gun during the stop. Potter, along with Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon, submitted their resignations Tuesday. On Wednesday, Potter was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter.
As Wright’s death tears open old wounds, some police departments have been working to change the way their officers approach their jobs and the lives they’re entrusted to protect and serve.
University of Maryland Professor Rashawn Ray focuses his work on police relations with the community. He says that a lot of police are often trained more for use-of-force situations when they’re more often called for situations related to “the exact opposite.”
“Nine out of 10 calls for service have nothing to do with violence at all,” he said. “As we’ve seen of late, and with more video evidence, we are oftentimes seeing police officers escalate situations themselves, making them more violent and aggressive than they should be. So, what we have to do is create training that speaks more to social interactions, speaks more to officers creating what they call ‘time and distance’ so that they can make more objective decisions instead of simply relying on playing up tactics.”
Vira Salzburn, of the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council, organized the training program that Watkins participated in for the city of Savannah. She said the intention of the program is to bring local officers together with behavioral health providers and school employees so that they can all understand each others’ roles and the people they work with on a daily basis.
“Having law enforcement involved in our community work, doing this grassroots work, is so beneficial for going from otherness to togetherness, and really cultivating the sense of compassion for each other, recognizing joys and sorrows that we may experience as a community,” Salzburn said.
The class is part of Watkins’ training in the Savannah Police Department’s Behavioral Health Unit. The department’s chief, Roy Minter, said the unit was launched after a review found that 3,700 calls from 2019 were not related to criminal acts but rather mental health crises.
“We realized, going through those calls for service, that what was really needed … was for those individuals to be evaluated by a clinician, to be connected to resources … and for them to have the opportunity to have some type of follow-up plan put in place to reduce recidivism for those types of calls,” Minter said.
Ray said a disproportionate amount of people who are ultimately killed by police are not only Black but also dealing with a mental health issue.
“The issue there is that in most police departments around the country, not only are they not trained in de-escalation and social interactions as they should be, but also they receive very little training on mental health identification,” he said.
Savannah Police Department’s Behavioral Health Unit was created with the intention of enhancing the department’s understanding of mental health. It’s comprised of two non-uniformed officers, unarmed officers and a licensed clinician. None of them wear a typical police uniform.
“We’re in a more comfortable, laidback uniform that is kind of designed to make people feel more comfortable. … We’re trying to stand apart from the rest of patrol because we’re trying to get there and calm the situation down and get people the help they need,” Watkins said.
People with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement, according to the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center. The Savannah Police Department said its Behavioral Health Unit has enhanced its police services while also reducing the need for unnecessary force.
“There are several situations that I’ve experienced since being on the unit, and even before being on the unit, where there’s a contrast,” Watkins said. “Prior to having the behavioral unit, you would take the person to jail, and now we have more options. When we tell [people] that we’re taking a person in for treatment or taking a person to a mental health facility rather than jail, most often than not, they’re pretty happy with that.”
Savannah Police Department Detective Patrick Skinner has been working to change officers’ mindsets for years. He said it’s a conversation that has “become more open and urgent” and that many officers operate at a baseline of fear and caution.
“If I’m afraid that I’m going to be murdered at every single second of the job and I’m always operating in what they would call ‘code red,’ I’m always on high alert, that is toxic mentally. It’s toxic physically,” Skinner said. “It’s also toxic to the profession of community policing. If I’m afraid of my neighbors, then I’m going to react fearfully.”
Before working in Georgia, Skinner spent seven years working for the CIA’s Counterterrorism Mission Center in the Middle East. During his time in the Anbar Province of Iraq, he said they fell short with gaining the trust and cooperation of the Sunni community — an issue he was able to draw parallels to in Savannah.
“When I came home to Savannah and I started seeing that same rhetoric here where you get the community on your side — ‘We need the African American community; we need the Hispanic community on our side’ … I could understand quickly that it doesn’t make any sense,” Skinner said. “That’s impossible. You need to do it day by day, individual by individual.”
As a police officer, Skinner has been outspoken about what he’s seen in his community, even speaking out in articles and on social media about community policing and the importance of being a “neighbor.” One idea he’s tried to instill within the department is that the term “civilian” creates a divide between cops and the people they serve.
“The words we use are very reflective of the thoughts we have. … I understand that you’re trying to say people that are not police,” he said, adding that calling people civilians pits them against cops, even if it’s subconsciously. “It also says that the cops are military because by definition, you have two choices, civilian and military, and we are not military.”
Skinner said that incorporating simple behaviors, like calling the person who called 911 or driving with his windows down, have made differences in his ability to police effectively and humanely.
“The openness is the power,” he said. “I would just call someone and say, ‘Hey, I’m officer Skinner heading to your address.’ Whatever the call is, [I’d say], ‘Is everything OK?’ And most of the time they would tell you that the call was not as dramatic as it seemed.”
On keeping his window down, he said, “Because of my old jobs, you were always supposed to wave to people because it told them two things: It told people that you were looking at suspiciously that, ‘Hey, he sees me.’ It also told everybody else, ‘Hey, he sees me in a positive way.'”
Skinner said he waves at everyone because he wants them to see he’s engaged. He’s looking for the “briefest connection,” he said.
“There are no small acts of kindness or connection, and we just need to not pass them up,” he said. “The windows down was an easy thing.”
It’s this momentary connection between a police officer and his community that Skinner hopes will become a constant across police departments throughout the country.
“We have a warrior mindset that is taught, and it’s taught a lot … that our job is to enforce the law with zero empathy, zero compassion, zero understanding and the goal is compliance,” he said. “The goal of a police call is not compliance. The goal is whatever the point of the call is — a lost dog, stabbing, shooting, whatever. And so, I don’t like that warrior mindset. … I police because they allow me to and that’s not semantics. The consent of the community is how we have our job, and they have a say in how we do our job.”
Savannah, GA – Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council, Inc. (Planning Council) was recently selected to become a designated State of Hope site and to receive funding to aid with project implementation.
During the third round of solicitations for “big ideas” from communities, the Planning Council submitted a proposal to serve the Chatham County area by developing and implementing Mindful Self-Compassion program to build resilience and enhance emotional wellbeing of its residents. More than 200 applications were submitted with approximately 10% of the applicants being selected to receive funding.
“We were very impressed with the applicants this year,” said DFCS Director Tom Rawlings. “Some are large and comprehensive, and others are smaller grassroots organizations who are just getting started, but all are changing lives for the better in their communities.”
The State of Hope initiative aims to transform Georgia into a collection of communities where children and families have all they need to thrive and succeed. Innovative local strategies and partnerships are key to achieving that goal and are asked to submit “big ideas” that focus on improving the lives of children and families in one or more of four categories: education, trauma-informed practice, quality caregiving, and economic self-sufficiency.
The State of Hope initiative was started in 2018 through a partnership between the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, Georgia State University’s Center for Professional Excellence, and Georgia Family Connection Partnership. Currently, 253 organizations have been designated as State of Hope sites and belong to the larger community – the Hope Ecosystem – where they can access technical assistance and opportunities for funding, build partnerships, and connect with each other.
To learn more or participate in the State of Hope initiative, go to https://dfcs.georgia.gov/
June 18, 2019 (SAVANNAH, Ga) — The Executive Board of the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council (Planning Council) is pleased to announce that Reginald C. Lee will be joining the Planning Council as Executive Director on July 22nd.
Reginald earned a Bachelor of Professional Studies from Memphis State University, majoring in Human Service Administration. Additionally, he received a Master of Arts Degree, with honors, from Webster University concentrating in Management and Leadership.
During his 38-year career in social services, Reginald has been tireless in his efforts to serve the homeless and individuals that are disenfranchised, incarcerated, and people recovering from addictions.
Prior to accepting this position, Reginald has most recently served as the Director of Programs at Old Savannah City Mission. In the course of his career he has held various social service positions in Georgia, South Carolina, and Missouri. These positions include: Executive Director of United Methodist Metro Ministry, Director of Homeless Services for the City of St. Louis, Senior Associate for the United Way in St Louis, and Senior Human Service Specialist for the Darlington County Department of Social Services.
Reginald has been an active community advocate wherever he has lived and has served on many boards addressing social service needs. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless, Savannah Care Center, and J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center. He has also served on the Board of Directors for St. Louis Area Food Bank, St. Louis Emergency Food and Shelter National Board, and the Lutheran High School Association of St. Louis. Reginald also served as a volunteer for the Kairos Prison Ministry.
Reginald is married to Dr. Rochelle Bornett Lee, an Assistant Professor of Nuclear Medicine Technology at Georgia Southern University. He and his wife have two adult children, Jocelyn and Reginald, who share his passion for human service as demonstrated by careers in healthcare and education.
Please help us welcome Reginald C. Lee to the Planning Council. In his new role as Executive Director, we are confident that he will continue to be a servant leader and an effective advocate and facilitator of community collaboration and cooperation in meeting community healthcare needs.
A coalition of safety net primary health care providers; Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Center, J.C. Lewis Primary Health Center, St. Joseph’s/Candler St. Mary’s and Good Samaritan Clinics, Memorial Family Medicine, Chatham CARE and social service providers and funders; the United Way of the Coastal Empire, City of Savannah, Chatham County as well as the Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools and Coastal Indicators Coalition have been selected by Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH), a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to participate in a 10-month mentorship program led by Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council to advance local efforts to share and use multi-sector data to improve community health.
As a DASH Mentee, they will connect with communities from around the country through All In: Data for Community Health, a peer-to-peer learning network that builds local capacity to systematically combine health data with data from other sectors like education, social services, and housing to acquire a more complete picture of the factors that influence health.
The Chatham Team will be working with 2-1-1 San Diego, a national leader in the development of a Community Information Exchange (CIE). CIEs are a collective movement and technology platform that shifts how health and social service providers deliver person-centered care. 2-1-1 San Diego mentorship will provide the toolkit to develop CIE infrastructure, interoperable technology, community network, legal frameworks, and sustainability.
Participation in the DASH Mentor Program will help the community come together and begin exploring the concept of a CIE for Chatham County and think through what that might look like.
The Chatham Team is excited to make meaningful connections with leaders in the field to accelerate learning and make significant progress towards aligning multi-sector partners around data-driven approaches that promote health equity.
To learn more, visit dashconnect.org/awardees/mentor-program/
Do you need affordable eyeglasses? Call St. Mary’s Community Center (912) 447-0578 today! St. Mary’s offers an eyeglass clinic once a month or by appointment. For individuals with prescriptions the cost of the glasses is $30. For those who do not have a prescription and meet the income requirements and are uninsured, you can qualify for a free eye exam at the Georgia Eye Institute. St. Mary’s Community Center is located 812 W 36th St, Savannah.
Heads-Up Guidance Services (HUGS) has a new location! It’s at 5 Executive Circle, Savannah, GA 31406.
Heads-Up Guidance Services is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization making Mental & Behavioral Health Counseling and Addiction Recovery Services available and affordable to ALL in need. HUGS is funded by community donations and operated by local volunteers. Free Consultations may be scheduled to learn more about our services.
To Begin Counseling Services… Call to schedule an INTAKE…912.417.4320 Intakes are information gathering sessions (required paperwork) when the client meets with a counselor to complete a Needs Assessment. Cost of Intake is $25.
The Coastal Campaign for Healthy Kids recognized the Effingham County Health Department and Children’s Special Services (CSS) which include Babies Can’t Wait, Children’s 1st and Children’s Medical Services, as Outstanding Outreach Partners!
County Nurse Manager, Cynthia Grovenstein and her staff, Early Intervention Coordinator, Kim McCaliley, the Children’s 1st & Children’s Medical Services and Children’s Special Services Coordinator, Jocelyn Hall accepted the recognition at the Safety Net Full Council meeting in July. The Effingham County Health Departments serve families in Effingham County include the WIC Clinic for pregnant women and children. CSS provides funding and support services for children with disabilities and chronic medical conditions. The children have to have health insurance to qualify for the cost-sharing and access to critical therapies and specialists. Safety Net recognized them for their sustained efforts in keeping the services of the Campaign top of mind with your team and trusting our enrollment assistors with their families.
Since the Campaign for Healthy Kids expanded to five additional counties in June 2016, the Coastal Health District has referred 156 families. Most of these referrals resulted in the submission of new or renewing application, checking up on an existing application or investigating a denial. One case manager from Babies Can’t Wait shared the impact one family who was referred to the Campaign staff with the following note. “Just wanted you to know about the family you helped, last week. Your efforts, by contacting your people in Medicaid, has brought JOY to this mom and dad. Her son’s Medicaid was approved and retro-activated from August. She said her son had a heart appointment next month that she didn’t know how it was going to get paid for. She said she had outstanding bills that will now be paid for. She was sooooo thankful…..I told her about you and she wanted me to thank you again.”
We are pleased to announce that the Georgia-based R. Howard Dobbs Jr. Foundation has awarded Chatham County Safety Net’s (Safety Net) program, the Coastal Campaign for Healthy Kids, $50,000 to support “mobile” enrollment assistance services in an effort to get more eligible children enrolled in Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids comprehensive health insurance programs.
Mobile enrollment is designed to reduce barriers that families may face accessing these programs by providing free, in-person application assistance through an assister who can meet parents at convenient locations like at their workplace, a child’s school or a local library and at a time that works for them, including evenings and Saturday mornings.
This generous award builds on the historic progress already made increasing the number of children who have health coverage in the greater Savannah area. Since July 2014, the Campaign has assisted 3,700 families, applying on behalf of over 6,000 children and teens.
The Campaign began in Chatham County in 2014 and since then, Chatham has experienced a 39% drop in the number of uninsured children from 7.9% 2014 to 4.8% in 2016 in comparison to an average of 15% Georgia-wide. The Campaign expanded to cover five additional counties, Bryan, Effingham, Liberty, Long and McIntosh in 2016.
“We truly appreciate the Foundation’s support for the Campaign for Healthy Kids, which allows us to continue our program to enroll kids in health coverage,” said Lisa Hayes, Executive Director of Safety Net.
The Campaign is comprised of a coalition of enrollment partner organizations including Step Up Savannah, St. Joseph/Candler’s St. Mary’s Community Center, Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care, the Chatham County Health Department and Safety Net’s “mobile” enroller. Outreach partners, most notably, J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center, the Coastal Health District, and the public schools in our six-county area have referred hundreds of families in need of enrollment help to us.
“Addressing the healthcare needs of children helps pave the way for them to thrive not only physically, but academically and emotionally as well. Our trustees were pleased to provide the stop-gap funding necessary to maintain the momentum of the Campaign for Healthy Kids as a result of delayed federal funding opportunities.” Danielle Gray, Program Officer, R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation
The R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation operates with the mission to improve the quality of life for individuals, families and communities by supporting educational opportunities, improving access to health services, and promoting environmental stewardship. The Foundation is committed to honoring the life and impact of Mr. Dobbs through its work.