Newly appointed Mental Health Clerk Camisha Thomas-Shabazz spoke to the Tuscaloosa County Commission Wednesday about her new role in the community assisting with mental health treatment in the criminal justice system, including the new Stepping Up Campaign.

Thomas-Shabazz is the first-ever mental health clerk in Tuscaloosa after being hired in November. Her position came about because of Tuscaloosa’s growing need for mental health services.

She’s a liaison between Tuscaloosa’s mental health providers including Indian Rivers, North Harbor, Bryce, Taylor Hardin and the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center.

“I’m just trying to make sure that we’re doing things by the law and doing what’s in the best interest of those who are being involuntarily committed,” Thomas-Shabazz said. “We’re really trying to work hard to make sure we’re doing what’s right.”

It’s a position that’s long overdue, said Tuscaloosa County Probate Judge Rob Robertson.

One of the programs Thomas-Shabazz is working with is Indian Rivers’ Stepping Up Campaign, led by Clinical Director Karen Jones.

The Stepping Up Campaign‘s goal is reducing the number of people in jail with mental illness and substance abuse issues, reducing the lengths of their stays in jail and helping those people stay out of jail. That means fewer crimes being committed, Jones said.

It’s also working to reduce the number of people frequenting emergency rooms for mental illness or substance abuse related issues.

“(We want to get these people) plugged into the right resources, the right treatment and the right services and keep them engaged so they’re not ending up going to jails or emergency rooms,” Jones said. “It’s a collaborative effort. One of the goals is to get everyone in the community working toward the same goal.”

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