Behavioral Health Consortium has meetings planned in Wilmington, Delaware City, Dover and Georgetown.

A group tasked with addressing Delaware’s addiction and mental health challenges has planned a series of public meetings aimed at gathering information from the community.

“In order to effect real change, we need the community, and everyone affected by this epidemic, to participate and ensure that all voices are heard,” said Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, who is heading up the state’s Behavioral Health Consortium.

The Behavioral Health Consortium is an advisory body comprised of community advocates, law enforcement, health care professionals and state leaders tasked with assessing the issue and outlining an integrated plan for action to address prevention, treatment and recovery for mental health, substance use and co-occurring disorders.

The forums are designed to hear from the community about some of the most pressing issues people across the state are facing, and to talk about the work the state is doing.

Bryan Gordon, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of the Lt. Governor, said the goals of the forums are to educate the public about the purpose and work of the consortium, to hear from the public about the significant issues they are seeing/facing in their respective communities and to begin a concept mapping process with members of the community to address the issues raised.

He said the process is the same one that was used several years ago to address rising cancer rates. In 2001 the state formed the Delaware Advisory Council on Cancer Incidence and Mortality, which later became the Delaware Cancer Consortium, with a goal of reducing the number of cancer deaths statewide. That effort was widely credited with helping to reduce cancer rates in the state.

Gordon said the townhall-style forums will feature a moderator and co-facilitators who are working with the consortium. He said while they want to cast a wide net in the kind of input they receive, they also want to keep the forums somewhat focused.

Hall-Long said public participation is essential to the consortium’s success.

“This is not going to be solved by experts, activists and officials sitting in a room,” she said. “Solutions are going to come in large part from the families and those living with addiction and mental illness.”