The Aiken Department of Public Safety will hold a “Community Cafe” on Thursday to discuss how mental health impacts the Aiken Safe Communities initiative.


The event will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center on Whiskey Road and is being put on with the Aiken Safe Communities Action Team. Refreshments will be served.


The event will be a forum where community members can express opinions and concerns and share information and resources about mental health in the community, according to Cynthia Mitchell, community services coordinator for Aiken Public Safety.


“We realize that mental health affects all of us,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes there are myths or misunderstandings about what it is, how to treat it and the processes for different things. We want to open a forum, so people can come in and share with each other about the state of mental health in our community.”


The forum will be moderated by Cheryl Cummings of Stairway Counseling Services. The guest speaker will be Judge Angela Little of the Aiken County Probate Court, who will address the necessary processes if a family member has been diagnosed with a mental illness.


“Judge Little is going to talk us through some processes about how we can get them help,” Mitchell said.


There will also be resources available to attendees after the session.


The Safe Communities initiative is modeled after a program in High Point, N.C., in which repeat violent offenders are identified based on their present and past criminal activities and are invited to a “call-in” with law enforcement officials and community members. There, the offenders are “put on notice” and told the effects of the crimes they are committing and that they face stiffer penalties and an expedited trial if they re-offend. They are also made aware of a variety of services and options available to help them pursue a more productive path.


High Point, which was once known as “Little Chicago” because of it’s high violent crime rate, saw a 54 percent decrease in its violent crime rate since 1990, while the population rose from 75,000 to 107,000.


Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.