Community Services News

Where human needs and government intersect. The Division of Community Services promotes ongoing economic security and independence for the people of Shelby County. We do this by promoting, coordinating and delivering services that address the underlying conditions for well-being and justice. We strive to be a highly organized team and partner, dedicated to promoting a strong community where all people are able to reach their full potential.

Dec 29

Staff News: Staff Communication & Coping During COVID-19

Posted on December 29, 2020 at 10:20 AM by Janet Lo

Staff Communication & Coping During COVID-19

The Division cares about each member of our Division family and has created some ways to better communicate with each other and cope with our new normal. 

Upcoming Facebook Page for Division of Community Services Employees

To help us stay connected, we are creating a Facebook page for Division employees.  This closed group page will be used to share information while we work through this crisis and thereafter.  Stay tuned. 

Tips for Coping During COVID-19

·     Take in news strategically.  Get enough information to keep you informed; too much information can cause undue stress and anxiety. 
·     Use this time for professional development.  Learn something new, or brush up on a skill or area that could be refreshing. See the list of SCG offerings below.
·     If you are working from home, include physical and mental breaks in your day.  Working from  home, in many ways, is harder than working in the office.  Take a break, get some sunshine, do some stretches or otherwise get some exercise
·     Keep in touch with the outside world.  SCG has a GoToMeeting account which you can use to videochat with clients and coworkers. Contact IT to get your GoToMeeting capability set up.  Sometimes seeing a friendly face helps to eliminate the feeling of isolation during this period. 
·     Use all resources available to help you cope.  The Employee Assistance Program is available to all employees who may need assistance during this time.   Red Table Talk also has a wonderful show about how to cope during this pandemic.  You can access it by clicking this link.

 Volunteer Opportunities

(This is not a Division of Community Services event.  The following is provided for informational purposes only.)

Although our Alternative Spring Break was cancelled, there are still opportunities to help those facing challenges related to COVID-19.

On April 1st, the Mid-South Food Bank needs 10 volunteers to assist with a mobile pantry distribution.   It will be held in the parking lot of Paradise Entertainment Center located at 645 E Georgia Ave. Memphis, TN 38126.  Volunteers will be responsible for distributing diapers and period supplies, directing traffic, assisting intake process, cleaning work area, as well as helping to set up and break down. Volunteers must arrive between 9:30A and 10:00A. The mobile pantry will operate from 10:30A to approximately 1:30P. Please contact the Mid-South Food Pantry at for details.  There will be nitrile and latex gloves available for all volunteers. You will need to complete the release form below. 

Online Shelby County Government Training Opportunities                  

The following is a list of online training opportunities offering by the Shelby County Government Training Center (which can be accessed via GoToMeeting,) and New Horizons.


4/7 Empowering Collaboration: A Guide to Engaging Across Generations
4/23 Plan. Execute. Achieve. Building a Career Framework
5/13 Are You A Catalyst for Change? Lead with Confidence so Your Team Can Follow

Professional Development:

4/14 Preventing Bullying & Promoting Civility in the Workplace
4/15 Workplace Safety
4/17 Exploring our Differences: Exercises in Diversity & Inclusion
4/23 Treat Everyone Like It’s Their Birthday: The Key to Customer Service
4/24 Creating a Respectful Workplace
4/27 Are People Difficult or Just Different
5/5 Workplace Safety
5/12 Communicating for Success
5/12 Necessary Skills for Workplace Success
5/14 Preparing for Leadership: Making the Transition from Staff to Supervisor
5/15 Creating a Respectful Workplace
5/20 Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
5/20 Conflict Resolution Skills
5/27 Perception is Reality

New Horizons Free Webinars

3/30 @ 11 am: Managing Remote and Virtual Teams
3/31 @ 11 am: Communicating Across Your Organization
4/1 @ 11 am: Leading Change in a Complex World
4/2 @ 11 am: Collaborating with Microsoft Teams
4/3 @ 11 am: Working Together in Microsoft Office 365
4/14 @ 11 am: Leadership & Development: The Art of Influence – An Essential Workplace Competency

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Feb 28

Director's Message: Past is Prologue

Posted on February 28, 2020 at 12:19 PM by Janet Lo

Director's Message

Past is Prologue

In William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, Antonio famously states “what is past is prologue” to justify choices that he feels fate has brought him to. While I won’t give away the plot for all of you who might have some extra time to read some Shakespeare, I must say that I do agree with the underlying premise that history sets the stage for understanding the present. 

History was always my favorite subject throughout school. There seems to be no other time of year that I am more immersed in reflecting on history than during Black History Month. The roots of Black History Month can be traced to 1926 in the United States, when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week”. While initially the emphasis was placed on encouraging the teaching of the history of Black Americans in public schools, eventually by 1970 the commemoration evolved into a full month within the United States. The observance of Black History Month now celebrates the contributions that African Americans have made to American history as well as the struggles for freedom and equality throughout history. 

Regardless of your heritage, a better understanding of Black History is important to everyone’s understanding of the full history of this nation and the world. While Black History Month may be designated as such, the truth is that Black History is integral to the fabric of our collective history.  

History is vitally important. Just as science helps us to understand the physical laws that govern our world, history helps us to better understand the people in the world.  It gives us an opportunity to critically reflect on our past mistakes, but also helps to inspire us to do better in the future. It helps us to understand our society and ourselves. It provides us with a sense of identity. It preserves our stories. It inspires us. It gives us warning signs. It can help us to be better people individually and collectively. 

History is not just important in this global way, but it plays a very essential role in how we serve the community. We must dedicate time to exploring the history of economics, politics, and traditions of Shelby County to be best equipped to tackle the issue of poverty. We must also be intentional in listening to the histories and dreams of our clients. The better we understand a person’s story, the more likely we are to identify ways to best support them to success. I am hopeful that we will all leverage this month’s focus on Black History, our collective history, year-round, to inspire us to continue be our best in service. 

Dorcas Young Griffin
Director of the Division of Community Services
Shelby County Government

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Feb 28

Mental Health Challenges in Criminal Justice System

Posted on February 28, 2020 at 12:17 PM by Janet Lo

2020-02-OJI - BHUOffice of Justice Initiatives, Behavioral Health Unit

Mental Health Challenges in the Criminal Justice System: The Need for Shelby County’s Behavioral Health Unit 

According to a Mental Health America 2015 report, 1.2 million people with mental illnesses sit in jail and prison every year. That is more than half of all Americans in jail or prison.  

Let that sink in. Half of all Americans in prison have a mental illness. 

Tennessee unfortunately ranks within the top ten states with the least access to mental health care. Shelby County took action in January 2016 to ensure that defendants in the criminal justice system, that have been identified as having a mental illness, have options for care and treatment that will ultimately reduce their risk of future incarceration.  

Qualifying defendants suffering from mental illness can go on probation, in lieu of incarceration, and have the option to have their charges dropped in exchange for completing a year-long mental health treatment plan determined by Shelby County’s Mental Health Court.

Defendants must plead guilty to stay in the yearlong program, but once they complete it, their arrest records are expunged. The program includes mental and physical health care, help with alcohol and drug abuse, housing assistance and, if they are capable, employment assistance.

The need is great in Shelby County. The court's clients, most commonly charged with theft, have been arrested an average of 136 times, with records that go back 20 to 25 years, mostly based on "nuisance crimes" — shoplifting, public drunkenness, and crimes associated with drug use. The court calls them "frequent fliers," meaning they're in and out of jail 8 to 10 times per year.

Shelby County's mental health court is presided over by Judge Gerald Skahan. Its performance and the critical needs among an estimated 500 people in jail with a diagnosed mental illness persuaded officials to double the court’s current case load to 50 offenders since it began in 2016.  

If you know someone that is currently in jail awaiting trial, on probation, or in prison that has a mental health condition and needs help with seeking treatment or medication, please contact the Behavioral Health Unit team at 901-222-2043. 

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