Health Department begins community outreach following mental health needs assessment
Officials start engaging partners to identify funding sources
November 29, 2016
When Rich Bullough took on the role of Summit County Health Department Director six years ago, he said he knew a mental health services contract existed between the department and Valley Behavioral Health. But, admittedly, he thought he only had to sign the contract to approve the partnership and nothing more was required.
But, as Bullough began to ask more questions, he said more went unanswered. The stigma surrounding mental health issues prevented any substantial open dialogue in the community, he said.
"I have lived here for well over 20 years and I had no idea these issues were here like this," Bullough said. "It blows my mind because we never really talked about it. Hopefully, that isn't the case now because we have been having this very public conversation over the past year or so."
The release of the results earlier this month of the county's mental health needs assessment survey have been eye-opening, Bullough said.
"I know, now, what the needs are and I know we have a lot of gaps," Bullough said. "These are real stories and these are real people.
Bullough presented the results of the survey, created by a steering committee of community members from the school districts, local law enforcement and faith-based organizations, among others, to the Summit County Council on Nov. 9. Bullough is scheduled to present to the Park City Council on Thursday, Dec. 1, and, eventually, the school districts. Community meetings and open houses are expected to start taking place after the new year.
"The intent of the survey was to identify the needs and then to identify strategic directives, but not how to do it," Bullough said. "This is not a strategic plan and it doesn't say how we are going to do this. There are some targets, but we don't have the key partners identified who will be influential in reaching those goals and we don't have measurable timelines or outcomes. That's the next step."
According to the survey report, five directives have been identified based on the results: educate and cultivate awareness; increase capacity and access; improve coordination of treatment; build community partnerships; and address funding gaps.
"The next step is to really do community outreach," Bullough said. "Ultimately, we will engage those partners and they will help us with where we need to go. I anticipate that will probably take about a year."
Bullough said they are in the process of trying to identify funding sources to support additional services. He said he did not request any additional money as part of the Health Department's budget request for the coming year because "we are not to the point, yet, where we know what we need." However, Bullough said they are beginning to discuss establishing a new position to lead the directives.
"We don't even know what is out there," Bullough said. "We are trying to piecemeal a position to drive this process and if we can't come up with funding, we will figure out how to do this.
"There is also that question out there do we want to spend a bunch of resources on staff or services? I'd argue we'd want to spend that on services," he said. "I don't want to just throw money at this. I think we need to be creative on how we drive the process, but most of the funding needs to go to services."
Moving forward, Bullough said, he is optimistic about the direction of the conversation in the wake of the survey. He highlighted the resolution the Summit County Council recently signed identifying mental health as a priority as proof.
"In some ways it is really cool they did it. In other ways, it is really concerning that this is anything out of the ordinary," Bullough said. 'For us to be a community that is leading this effort, it tells me there is so much to be done. But, there is a discussion occurring in our community that has never happened before, in addition to the survey, that is very public.
"That is not the case in all communities. We are very fortunate to have CONNECT and others in the community to share their stories," he said. "I am very optimistic. I think we have the momentum here."
The "Mental Health Survey Findings and Community-Based Strategic Planning Directives for Summit County" report is available at summitcountyhealth.org.