Revolutionizing mental health care in Forsyth County

Mental Health Awareness Month 

May 27, 2021

While each of the 20 HCCC communities have their own ways of improving access to health services, the Forsyth County team is one of the only project teams with a direct focus on mental health and substance abuse disorders. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, we connected with Brandon Kenney, project team lead of Forsyth County, to learn more about what he and his team are doing to advance public health priorities that support mental health and well-being.

Studies have shown that people in a mental health crisis are more likely to encounter police than to get medical attention, resulting in two million people jailed every year. In an effort to dissolve the connection between those with mental health disorders and involvement in the criminal justice system, the Forsyth County team is actively improving care coordination for individuals with behavioral health issues. How? Through data-sharing!

The Forsyth Team is developing a data-sharing process with community-based organizations through a cloud-based, high-security data platform.

“What is unique about our approach to the problem is that we utilize data and information in a way to help with mental health issues,” Kenney said. His team is working to make relevant mental health information shareable across different agencies in both an efficient and timely manner.

“If a 911 call comes in and it happens to be what we call a friendly face, we understand we've seen this person before,” Kenney said. “But what has happened with this individual? Do we have any information that may help a responding officer? Can we get a peer specialist involved that may be able to help defuse a situation so that we're able to keep people out of the legal system and get them the help that they need?”

To support their data-sharing efforts, the team has also made an effort to collaborate with diverse stakeholders in their community such as their county’s Commissioners Office and Mental Health Task Force. Despite drawbacks from limited in-person convenings as a result of COVID-19, they’ve still continued to foster some unique partnerships to advance their project’s mission. 

“We've partnered with our sheriff's office to share data from a 911 call or from a jail booking and understand the full scale and scope of the mental health issues that we're starting to see in our legal system,” Kenney explained. “We are also looking to see how we can utilize our library system so that individuals who may not have access to Wi-Fi and computers can access services they need.”

Beyond addressing the mental health needs of your local community, Brandon stressed that caring for the mental health needs of his project team during a trying time like the pandemic is imperative as well.

Some advice for project team leaders: adapt your management style to prevent burnout and fatigue among team members. 

“The way we work has changed,” Kenney said. “And leadership style needs to change with it. Connect with your employees...You have got to take more of an initiative to reach out and check in on people to ask them how they're doing. Not ‘what are you doing for me,’ but ‘how are you doing?’”


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