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Owen Walton sworn in as St. Clair County Mental Health Officer

ASHVILLE — St. Clair Sheriff Billy Murray has announced that Deputy Sheriff Owen Walton will serve as the county’s new mental health officer. 

A news release about the announcement said Walton has also been promoted to sergeant at the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office as part of his new job. Walton was sworn in Wednesday.

The new mental health officer assigned to assist the Judge of Probate while overseeing all mental health related duties.    

The day-to-day duties of the Mental Health Officer will include training, mental health admissions, crisis intervention, evaluations, and many other responsibilities.

Murray said in August, when the position was first approved by the St. Clair County Commission, that the mental health officer will train all law enforcement officers in the county on matters of mental health. He said this training will focus especially on situations where officers are asked to respond to a situation where a person is going through mental health issues or distress. 

The sheriff said this training is free and available to all of the law enforcement agencies in the county.

Probate Judge Mike Bowling said Walton will assist the probate office in areas related to mental health. 

“The probate court is over all the mental commitments in the county,” he said.

Bowling said the mental health officer is meant to act like a probation officer for people going through a committal process, making sure those going through the process stay on their medication and are attending regular appointments with their doctor. 

The judge said Walton will also be trained to determine if an issue is mental health or drug related, which determines how the process is handled. 

Bowling said he feels the officer is a much needed addition to the county to help address the rise in mental health issues around the county. He said he and Murray have been working for years to get such a position in St. Clair County. The judge said he is grateful to State Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) and Representative Jim Hill (R-Moody) for their part in passing legislation to allow for the position along with the county commission for approving it. 

“This mental health officer is very very needed,” he said “I am proud of all the elected officials that had a hand in making this happen.”

Taylor Mitchell is a Daily Home reporter covering Pell City.