Valley Mental Health has been providing substance abuse and psychological counseling to those in Summit, Salt Lake and Tooele counties, and now Summit County has secured a three-year contract renewal with the non-profit group to further help area residents.
VMH's Regional Director of Rural Counties Victoria Delheimer said she is pleased with her group's place in the county.
"I'm ecstatic about our relationship here in the community," Delheimer said. "We've become more visible in the community; folks know us as a resource."
Summit County Health Department Director Richard Bullough says the county has had "an emerging relationship" with VMH over the last few years, and they contract with the group to play the role of mental health authority. Of VMH's total funding of $1.1 million, the county provides just over $100,000 as well as a significant amount of in-kind value such as human hours and office space.
As well as providing psychiatric services, outpatient mental health care and prevention services, VMH deals especially with substance abuse. The group takes individuals who have faced felony drug charges and are ready to change and helps them deal with their problem with treatment and prevention measures.
Summit County helped conduct a study on substance abuse with sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grade students, looking at the risk factors for abuse. According to Bullough, the findings were worrisome.
"Some very disconcerting facts we see is that at a much higher prevalence than the rest of the state, teens in Summit County drink more alcohol," Bullough said. "A very large proportion drinks at home with the support of their parents. That really concerns us."
Delheimer said VMH is taking steps to fight this problem.
"We're trying to send a message in our prevention program about the development of the teen brain," Delheimer said. "The earlier you start using, the more likely you are to develop substance abuse problems."
Bullough says VMH is launching school-based programs that are focused on teen-to-teen substance abuse education, but mentions the missing piece is the parental education, of which there are several important facets.
"The first is the legal facet. They are liable if alcohol is consumed with their approval at their residence for any damages that incur as a result," Bullough said.
Additional outreach that VMH will be providing includes two community forums a year at the University of Utah, media campaigns targeting parents and teens, and a float in the Kamas Fiesta Days parade that will focus on teen substance abuse. The media campaigns are part of Parents Empowered, a statewide initiative that seeks to prevent and reduce underage drinking.
Bullough says the county and VMH both have the desire to alter the image of substance abuse as it is portrayed in high schools.
"The perception in high schools is that substance abuse is normal," Bullough said. "People tend to gravitate towards the norm. It's important to get that message out there that this isn't the norm. It's an outlier group of kids that do this."
For more information on Valley Mental Health, visit www.vmh.com or call 888-949-4864. VMH has offices in Kamas, Coalville and Park City.