Mental Health Effort Underway in Midland

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By Sharon Mortensen

In January of 2017, the mental health services and gaps committee officially launched a plan to address mental health needs in Midland County.  Reasons for the focus on mental health include:

  • In 2016, 798 Midland County students in grades 6-12 reported attempting suicide.
  • Half of all Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives.
  • National statistics indicate 12% of older adults are depressed and account for 20% of suicides each year.

Other local statistics on suicide attempts or deaths due to suicide provided additional reasons for developing a community plan. Over 25 organizations were involved in putting this plan together. The plan has been incorporated into the Midland County Community Health Improvement Plan which outlines efforts to deal with four health concerns: (1) substance use disorder, (2) later life quality, (3) healthy weight and (4) mental health.

The Health and Human Services Council recently heard an update on the mental health efforts underway. The mental health team is working on six areas.

Online mental health portal

A new online resource called the Hope Portal will improve information and referral for mental health services. This portal will be powered by 211. The primary purpose is to be the reliable entry point for those who are seeking information and resources related to mental health needs. This new resource will launch in February of 2018. Extensive work in collecting and vetting available mental health services has been underway.

Suicide prevention

Looking at best practices on suicide prevention has been a focus of the team. With the awareness that about 77% of youth who commit suicide visit their primary care physician in the previous year and 45% of those had contact within 1 month prior to their death, the team is working to ensure that individuals who are at risk for suicide are properly screened for suicide at every health encounter and that an effective process for on-going intervention is in place. Routine screening for depression, anxiety, and suicide is now in place. A pilot for providing behavioral health in a medical practice is being investigated for the upcoming year.

Jail diversion for those with mental illness

The team is working to divert people with mental illness out of the criminal justice system when appropriate. The goal is to increase the percentage of people with mental illness and intellectual/ developmental disabilities in jail being referred to the right services and supports. Midland County is starting a Crisis Intervention Training program which will help law enforcement in responding to situations and provide ongoing support and training. The first training is scheduled for May 2018. This model has proven to be very effective in other communities.

Mental health services in the schools

Increasing mental health services in the schools has been a major focus over the past year. Many achievements have taken place including:

  • Providing mental health training for over 100 school professionals including Mental Health First Aid and Advanced Mental Health Training and mindfulness training for teachers
  • Piloting MindUp Curriculum teaching mindfulness and self-regulation skills to 3rd graders
  • Starting Cognitive Behavioral Mindfulness Groups for high school students who are struggling with anxiety and depression
  • Implementing Positive Alternatives to School Suspensions (PASS) for middle school students
  • Implementing a system of wraparound care and intervention for high-risk youth
  • Training school counselors in use of tool to help determine level of anxiety, depression, and suicide risk
  • Increasing the visibility of the OK2Say program which is a confidential hotline for reporting possible threats including violence and suicide

Through these efforts, school professionals know how to respond effectively to youth with mental health problems and youth have greater resources available to them.

Public awareness/communication

Raising awareness, educating our community about mental health issues, and keeping residents up to date on health and suicide services available in our community is the focus of this goal. The mental health team wants our community to better understand the issue and available resources. Presentations to community groups and press releases to various media outlets have been done in the past year.

Research advisory council

During 2017, a Mental Health Research Advisory Committee has been formed. This group meets monthly and provides feedback for mental health programs, research or media campaigns developed by the group or targeted for Midland County. They are also working to identify and/or apply for other research grants to support improving mental health in our community.

Through their efforts to work in these six areas, the mental health services and gaps team is working to improve practices, offer resources and provide needed services to the Midland County community. Updates on goals for 2018 and a complete list of 2017 accomplishments will be provided at a community update on January 24, 2018.