Yavapai College in Prescott Hosts Mental Illness Forum

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Yavapai College in Prescott is working with the YC’s Administration of Justice Program Director to host a forum focused on mental illness issues in January.

Although he no longer wears a uniform or badge, Jerald Monahan of Prescott does not give up on his lifelong quest to bring respect and human dignity to the criminal justice system.

These days, the former Prescott and Yavapai College Police Chief approaches the quest from a different angle — than that of director of the YC’s administration of justice program.

“Really, for me, it’s a question of justice. What does justice really look like? It depends on how you treat people. Policing and criminal justice are human services, and we must remember the humanity involved in performing the functions of the system,” Monahan said.

The police chief-turned-educator believes he’s found a way to help humanize the justice system while tackling what he firmly believes is an epidemic of misinformation about the system in the media and social media. With the support of college leadership and former law enforcement colleagues, Monahan recently launched the Yavapai College Justice Institute as an extension of the college’s administration of justice program.

The primary goal of the YCJI is to facilitate dialogue between professionals in the justice system and members of the community in order to build trust, understanding, civility and perhaps common solutions to divisive issues.

“I wanted to bring criminal justice leaders together to have community forums, where we could give fact to fiction, invite people to interview criminal justice leaders and hear from them and learn directly from them,” said Monahan, adding, “Communication builds trust and understanding. Trust and understanding allow us to be respectful and civil in our communication, breaking down barriers.

Additionally, Monahan noted, “Part of the mission of the college itself is to be a resource for the community. We have these wonderful facilities and the ability to bring people together to tackle important issues.

The YCJI, which is advised by a distinguished group of law enforcement, education, and social service organizations from across the county and state, is hosting its inaugural community event later this month- ci – a forum on the destigmatization and decriminalization of mental illness.

The forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 27 in the Community Room at YC Prescott Campus, Building 19, Room 147. All are welcome to participate and get involved.

The forum will feature a panel of law enforcement and mental health professionals presenting information for panel discussion. YC art history professor Dr. Brandelyn Andres, who has been active in the college’s unity and equity initiatives, is hosting the forum, which will also include information booths manned by representatives mental health service organizations in the area.

Panelists and presenting topics for the January 27 Forum on Destigmatizing and Decriminalizing Mental Illness include:

  • Dr. Neil Websdale of the Institute of Domestic Violence at Arizona State University will discuss dementia and traumatic brain injury in domestic violence.
  • Dr. Virgil Hancock from the University of Arizona will discuss violence and the mentally ill.
  • Yavapai College Police Chief Tyran Payne will discuss Mental Health First Aid.
  • Yavapai County Deputy Chief Attorney Dennis McGrane will discuss the role of the county attorney’s office in mental illness cases.
  • YCSO Chief Deputy Jeff Newnum will discuss Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office reform efforts with the mentally ill.
  • Beya Thayer, director of the Yavapai Justice and Mental Health Coalition, will share the coalition’s collaborative efforts

In addition to hosting countywide community forums and dispelling and challenging misinformation about the criminal justice system, the YCJI aims to conduct trainings based on identified needs. The YCJI Advisory Board has already identified the need for a NARTA-style academy for law enforcement communications specialists, or dispatchers. NARTA is the regional police training academy housed at YC’s Prescott campus and supported by state law enforcement agencies. Dispatch Academy is tentatively set to debut this summer when NARTA is out of session.

Although the YCJI is launched as a community resource, Monahan thinks it could have a much wider impact. “We will speak locally, but the very topics we speak about are currently part of the national discourse on police reform. Our approach and the results could very well be applied nationally and globally.

For more information regarding the upcoming panel, please contact Director Jerald Monahan at [email protected] or call 928-776-2184.

Read more education stories at Signals A Z.com.


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