Demo, Q & A, part of mental health forum tonight

Published 9:11 pm Monday, May 12, 2014

For anyone looking to find out more about the link between drugs and mental illness, the Beaufort County Mental Health Association has the information for you.

Tonight at 7 p.m., BCMHA will host a forum in which residents with questions can get them answered. The event will be held at First United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall and is open to the public.

“We try to remove the stigma and increase awareness of things that need to be done in the community to help the mentally ill and those who are suffering from substance abuse,” said Donna Parker, BCMHA education chairperson.

Each year, BCMHA holds a public event in May—helping to spread the news that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The all-volunteer organization’s ranks are made up of people whose lives have been touched either personally or professionally by those will mental illness. The volunteers are advocates for the mentally ill, as well as benefactors: they assist with providing transportation and medications for those in need, and Christmas time brings a round of gift-giving to patients at local group homes and rest homes, the Silverthorne Crisis Center, Vidant Beaufort’s psychiatric ward, the Alzheimer’s unit at River Trace and to patients, some of which hail from Beaufort County, at Caswell Training Center in Kinston.

In addition to supporting the mentally ill, the nonprofit will also be investing in education. This year, $1,000 in scholarship money, in honor of longtime members (now retired) John and Geneva Morgan, will be offered to a Beaufort County Community College nursing student.

Last year’s public event featured Dr. Paul Garcia, who spoke about the abuse of prescription drugs. This year’s special guest include the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit. The topics: substance abuse and its link to mental illness, as well as domestic abuse.

Capt. Russell Davenport said he’ll be talking about that link—one that is prevalent in the drug community.

“Drugs — for starters — people on drugs, your body naturally produces a chemical that makes you feel good. That’s essentially dopamine. Once you start using drugs, your body stops making that chemical. Your body starts relying on the drugs you’re using,” Davenport said.

Parker said that anyone can come to the hour-long event, where drug unit investigator will do a demonstration with the unit’s drug-detecting K-9 Elza, and stay for the question and answer session. She said anyone who has questions about law enforcement’s role in helping when there’s a mental health issue is welcome —she plans to ask questions about the recent increase in methamphetamine production in the area, something she’s been wondering about.

Applications for BCMHA’s scholarship are available through Judy Jennette at the Beaufort County Community College Foundation office.