Opinion

Join the discussion about mental health in Centre County

Two months ago when Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna released his report on the death of 29-year-old Osaze Osagie, one set of numbers stood out.

Osagie was shot and killed on March 20 as State College police officers attempted to serve a “302” mental health warrant on him at his apartment. The mental health warrant was one of more than 163 served between July 2018 and March 17, representing an alarming increase in the number of warrants served.

According to Cantorna’s report, 57 mental health warrants were served during the 2017 fiscal year. In the 2018 fiscal year, the number jumped to 304.

Why? The answer to that question — and what comes next — is important to our community. It’s what CDT reporters have been digging into for months. Amid controversy and outrage about the shooting and the role of race, State police Sgt. William Slaton was clear about what he believes led to the death of Osagie, an African American man.

“The mental health system failed this gentleman,” Slaton said during the May press conference.

How? It’s another critical question.

Through our reporting, we’ve learned that others in Centre County feel like they or their loved ones have been failed by the mental health system. What are the flaws? Where are the gaps? What are the resources and what is needed? Those are just some of our questions, and we need your help to get answers.

If you have a story tell, or questions you want answered about the mental health system, we want to know. Please email us at communityforum@centredaily.com.

It’s a topic that affects parents, teachers, health care professionals, all of us who have had our own struggles. The Centre County Board of Commissioners has also recognized the importance of this topic, and will host a “Community Conversation about Mental Health Services in Centre County” from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Courthouse Annex third floor, 106 E. High St., Bellefonte. The event will include a presentation from state and county mental health office representatives for an overview of how the mental health system operates in Centre County. County staff will be on hand to discuss the services currently available, and the public will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Since we’re all affected by this issue, we should all join the discussion.

We hope to see you there, and we hope to hear from you at communityforum@centredaily.com. Readers can expect updates and continued coverage from our ongoing investigation into the mental health system.

On Friday, join me and reporter Marley Parish at our monthly meet-the-CDT event. We’ll be at the Inglebean Coffee House, 106 E. Main St., Millheim, from 11 a.m.-noon.

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