The Capital Area Human Services District is seeking input from the public Thursday on how the group can improve substance abuse and mental health services in the future.

“This a rare opportunity for the public to come out and tell us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong and make suggestions on how we can do it better,” said Jan Kasofsky, executive director of the district.

The publicly funded Capital Area Human Services District, a political subdivision of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, provides substance abuse, mental health and developmental-disabilities services in East Baton Rouge, Ascension, East Feliciana, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes.

The goal of Thursday’s public forum, held annually, is to gather information about community needs to develop strategies on enhancing services.

The district has 30 days after gathering the information to compile and post a report detailing the feedback.

Kasofsky said one big complaint she hears from the public each year is that some residents of the seven-parish area don’t know about the district or the services it provides.

Kasofsky said the district’s budget does not provide money for a full-time marketing employee, so she winds up having to handle media outreach.

Since the last meeting in 2012, the district has updated its website and become aggressive with social media, published new material publicizing services and hired a part-time outreach coordinator, Kasofsky said.

During the 2012 fiscal year, the district provided mental health services to 7,573 adults; addiction recovery services to 1,649 adults; mental health and substance abuse services to 3,484 children; and developmental disability services to 2,985 people.

Kasofsky said, in many cases, people with substance abuse addictions who don’t seek help end up in the legal system.

“And it cost about $35,000 a year to house someone in jail, but outpatient substance abuse treatment only costs $5,000 annually,” Kasofsky said.

The group’s public forum is slated for 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the district’s main offices at 4615 Government St., Building 2, Room 200.