BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CBS 42 Living Local) – In honor of mental health awareness month, Sheriff Mark Pettway with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, wishes to assure citizens that helping those affected by mental health struggles is a “top priority.”

“It is something I campaigned on. We want to make sure that those who have mental health issues get the best care, and we are there to help them during those times,” Pettway said.

Pettway said that deputies often receive mental-health calls when a concerned family member notices a loved one is not taking their medications, or their prescriptions are not working. Deputies prefer to take patients to a mental health facility instead of jail.

“Those who work with the JBS Mental Health Authority will often assist deputies on mental-health calls to help facilitate taking a patient to a mental health facility,” said Pettway.

At the academy, all deputies are trained on best practices when responding to mental health calls. Deputies will ‘flag’ a residence if they respond to a mental health call.

“A radio operator will say, ‘hey, this house has already been flagged as a person with mental health issues.’ They may give out the name of that individual so the deputy will know how to react because of information that was already put in the system,” Pettway said.

If you fear a family member is off their medications, and it is only a matter of time before they hurt themselves or someone else, Pettway recommends speaking to the probate judge about obtaining a commitment order.

“Once the judge gives us that petition to pick that person up, we will transport that person to where they can have a bed until the judge fully hears the case. This is in cooperation with a family member who loves (that person). They want to make sure their family is treated properly, and that is what we are there to do,” said Pettway.

Pettway also oversees the Mental Health Crisis Unit. This group is made up of trained social workers who work with law enforcement to provide crisis intervention assistance for Jefferson County citizens. For more information, visit

Another leg of The Sheriff Department’s mental health resources is a diverse Chaplain Team that comes from all faiths. Their goal is to meet the emotional and spiritual needs of employees within the Sheriff’s Office, as well as citizens after a disaster or personal life event.

The Chaplins are made up of an all-volunteer unit within the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Volunteer chaplains are carefully selected and trained. If you are interested in joining the chaplain team, visit the Chaplain Program page on the website.