Local nonprofit working with law enforcement to combat rise in crime

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 8:52 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - New Horizons Behavioral Health is partnering with local law enforcement in an effort to decrease crime across the Fountain City.

The number one thing they are focusing on is decreasing the amount of inmates inside the Muscogee County jail suffering with mental health issues.

“We want to be able to partner with law enforcement, because we realize that unfortunately, society as a whole has criminalized mental health,” said Andrea Winston, CEO of New Horizons Behavioral Health.

As crime continuously rises throughout Columbus, New Horizons is bringing more awareness to one aspect of crime many of us forget about - mental health.

“You see a high rate of crime here in Columbus, Georgia, and surrounding counties in a lot of those acts of criminal behavior are attributed to some form of mental health,” said Winston.

In fact, Winston says 30 percent of those incarcerated at the Muscogee County Jail suffer from some level of mental health issues. With that in mind, Winston says New Horizons is working with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office to decrease the rate of those sent to jail who are in need of psychiatric treatment.

“Sheriff Countryman is a wonderful advocate for people that suffer from mental illness,” said Winston. “He’s very invested in seeing that we provide treatment in lieu of just plain incarceration or treatment in tandem with incarceration.”

Another initiative in the works with the Columbus Police Department is a new hotline for people to call when their dealing with a mental health issue.

“988, will soon be, in July of 2022, a hotline where you can call -- just like you call 911 if you have an emergency at your location that is behavioral health related,” said Winston.

When that hotline is up and running in Columbus, licensed mental health clinicians will work with officers responding to 911 calls.

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