Mental health, crime subjects of Vermont and New Hampshire gathering

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LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) Top law enforcement in Vermont and New Hampshire are looking for solutions to addressing the mental health crisis in both states. The discussion in Lebanon, New Hamsphire, on Tuesday was called Turning Lives Around.

They want to erase the stigma and shame often associated with mental illness was the main message.

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says the changes he wants regarding mental health treatment are both in the criminal justice system and in society.

"That’s going to give real power and voice to people to say they need help," Donovan said.

Raising awareness and normalizing mental health are some of the ways top criminal justice leaders across the region are hoping to help those living with mental illness.

"We have to make sure there’s access to health care, access to mental health counselors, to providers, in our schools, in our community where it’s normal, where it’s not stigmatized," Donovan said.

He was among seven law enforcement officers and judges who talked about the need for better education, more counseling and early detection.

"If we can do that, that is going to be a huge step forward to making sure we’re treating people with respect," Donovan said. "We want to make sure we’re improving our public safety and people are getting the care that they deserve."

First responders are currently the default mental health providers in the state and often experience second-hand trauma when responding to calls from mentally ill people. Donovan says the community should be doing more to lift that weight from law enforcement shoulders.

"We have to have more mental health providers embedded in law enforcement in Vermont and New Hampshire," Donovan said. "They’re doing a tremendous job ... but we have to make sure we have early intervention in our schools, in our communities, and we all have a role to play."

If you or someone you know needs mental help you can call 603-448-4400.