By Beanie Taylor
As students returned to their regular regime of learning, Yadkin County Commissioner Kevin Austin described the education commissioners received over the summer.
In addition to one every early spring in Washington D.C., the National Association of Counties holds a traveling national conference every summer. “This is the first time any of our board has traveled out of state [for the conference] and it was a rewarding experience,” said Austin, who was one of the five board members who attended the conference in Columbus, Ohio, this year.
“Two years ago the national conference was in Charlotte so we got to go to that,” said Austin, who serves as chairman of the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners. He also has been to the conference in Washington D.C. several times. Gathering commissioners from across the country to discuss issues as well as programs and methods of resolution, the conferences offer seminars and sessions presenting best practices from other counties.
“That to me is really the value,” said Austin. He was particularly impressed with learning about the development of a program he had first heard about years previously. “There’s a thing called the Stepping Up Initiative that’s spread like wild fire across the country,” said Austin. “A couple of years before when we were in Charlotte they were talking a lot about this as a concept, and now it’s a reality.”
The Stepping Up Initiative (stepuptogether.org) tries to connect individuals who have mental illnesses and are serving time in jail to appropriate mental health services with the goal of keeping them out of jail. “Many of the people that are in the jails across the country suffer mental issues so that’s a way of getting them out of jail and into mental treatment,” said Austin. “That’s the core of the Stepping Up Initiative and so now we are getting to hear how it’s working for people.