Carrie McClung, Jon Abernathy, Bruce Word and Rodney County received certificates and pins Tuesday to mark their success at becoming the first Etowah County Sheriff’s Office deputies to earn Correctional Behavioral Health Certification from the American Correctional Association.

The certification is offered for correctional officers, community corrections officers and allied behavioral health staff, according to ACA’s website. It is available for those “who, because of their education, credentials and experience, are associated with the provision of behavioral health services for mentally ill offenders. A minimum of 40 hours of behavioral- and mental health-related training is required for the examination.”

As CBHCs, the deputies will need to continue their education and be recertified every three years.

Chief Deputy of Detention Scott Hassell said the four are among the first in the state to earn certification. He referenced the Substance Abuse Program started in 2004, a groundbreaking approach to addressing and treating drug use and abuse in relation to crime and the penal system.

Hassell said the SAP program was not given much of a chance in the beginning by others in the corrections field. Now, it is a model for many facilities.

In much the same way, detention officers are increasingly dealing with mental health issues among inmates because of lack of resources elsewhere in state agencies.

“We are running a mental health center over there,” Sheriff Todd Entrekin said, gesturing to the detention center. “I just want to thank these individuals for their dedication and commitment.”

Representatives from Cherokee-Etowah-DeKalb Mental Health made a presentation to the Etowah County Commission during its Tuesday work session. Commissioner Jeff Overstreet acknowledged the representatives as he lauded the deputies.

“I never imagined that CED would be a full-blown partner with the Etowah County Commission because of what’s going on across the street,” Overstreet said. “We are thankful to have you.”