BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)– Organizations in East Baton Rouge Parish are taking the nation’s mental health crisis seriously at the 3rd Annual Bridging the Gap Community Event.

Dawn Collins of Capital Area Human Services said, “When it comes to mental health and stigma, we stand as champions.”

In like manner, the Bridge Center for Hope’s Executive Director, Charlotte Claiborne, who organized the event emphasizes that it’s critical to focus on every aspect of someone’s well-being.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that mental health doesn’t start at adulthood,” Claiborne said. “I mean, there are children as young as three and four. That has gone through trauma. And when that trauma is not addressed, it has the potential to escalate.”

One of the agencies at the event was the Pre-Trial Diversion and Recovery Program. They help expunge non-violent offenses from criminal records and help keep addicts clean. It also provides individuals in the program with employment opportunities.

“They cannot be violent felonies, but it can be a felony charge, particularly a drug charge or a burglary or something like that that is stemming from a behavioral health issue or a substance use issue,” said Lisa Burns, Licensed Social Worker and Case Manager.

The program must be completed in six to eight months for charges to be removed.

“Having those charges really inhibits individuals from getting good jobs,” said Brianna Jeansonne, CJCC Project Assistant.

The Pre-trial Diversion and Recovery Program is the only initiative of its kind in Louisiana. And program participants who require assistance with mental health needs can get help from the Bridge Center for Hope.

Claiborne said when anyone comes to the Bridge Center for Hope in need of assistance. Staff workers are determined to give the patients the proper care and help during their time at the center.

“When you come to us, we want to make sure that we got you. We understand. And we give you the keys to be successful,” Claiborne said.