Community Coalition Strives To Address Critical Community Issues

Community Coalition Strives To Address Critical Community Issues

For the past couple of years, school district 418 and the McPherson County Community Foundation have partnered to bring the community together to solve issues related to kids (and their families) being ready and able to learn. The school district is focused on the hours within the school day, the MCCF is focused on the hours kids are not in school.

The coalition has met several times and has narrowed the topics to 4 areas:
Mental (social-emotional) health
Early childhood initiatives

Our most recent meeting condensed that focus even further to work on the Mental (social-emotional) health of the families in our community and communication. For today’s conversation, I will be addressing the topic of mental health. A statistic shared at the last coalition meeting was that as many as 85% receive their first experience with a mental health professional at a state mental hospital. When I heard that, I was aghast. How does that happen? I wonder, is that large number due to the stigma of getting help? Does the community at large not know how/where to ask for help? Does the potential of financial burden prevent individuals from seeking help? What else keeps people from obtaining the help they need before it becomes a crisis?

Some might be curious to know if the community of McPherson is that deeply impacted by issues involving mental health. Consider this: Chief McClarty spoke about the different services that have been provided for all of 2018 and for the first part of 2019. The most staggering statistic is that there were 10 (ages 10-17) incidents of juveniles in crises that they dealt with in all of 2018 – and there have already been 10+ cases so far this year! Our youth are struggling with forms of trauma and it is showing!

In hearing the strides already being taken to help our community, I was encouraged!

Here is what I have discovered: About 6 years ago, a group started called the Community Mental Health Partners group (includes hospital [including E.R. representation], CKF, police/sheriff [including DARE officer and SRO], Prairie View, City, County Attorney). The reason this group is so vital to the care of our community is because in the past, if there was a crisis that required someone to call the police and that person had to go to the hospital – an officer would be required to stay with that person until help came. Prior to this group collaborating together – the time waiting could be upwards of 2 days. 2 DAYS! While in crisis! This group now works closely together and the time waiting has been reduced to at most a few hours. This alone provides great impact, as it frees an officer to focus on his/her duties protecting our city, and even more important, it gives the person in crises the care they desperately need.

Additionally, the McPherson Police have included Mental Health First Aid & CIT training to their annual schedule to better care for our community.  And, because of the success of this program, USD 418 discussed bringing the Mental Health First Aid to it’s employees. In addition, discussion has begun to help with education and awareness for the general population.

The coalition has dreams of continuing to build on this momentum to make sure all in McPherson have access (and are aware of that access) to mental health services. Looking forward, here are some of the issues we hope to address: In addition to the education and awareness opportunities to offer to the public, it would be ideal to offer mental health services through neighborhood schools. As a group, we would like to understand ways to prevent mental health issues turning into crisis moments. And finally, it was suggested that as a community we should be thinking about how to provide exposure and incentives for people to choose being a mental health professional as their career.

McPherson – You make me proud to be a resident here! Together, we are working to find solutions to our deepest systemic issues.