Panelists at mental health meeting pledge support | ParkRecord.com

Panelists at mental health meeting pledge support

First meeting of new alliance draws support from elected officials, schools, health care providers and religious groups

Nan Chalat Noaker
The Park Record

"It is a miracle to be gathering at a meeting like this today," said Lynne Rutan at Summit County's inaugural Mental Wellness Summit, held Friday, April 21, at the Park City Hospital. The room was filled with more than 80 local leaders responding to a call for a united effort to expand and improve access to mental health services.

Two years ago, Rutan and her husband, Ed, were among the first in the community to highlight the county's shortage of mental health services. They were motivated, she said, by their own experience trying to find care for their son.

"We had so much trouble finding him treatment and what options were available to our family," she said, adding they were eventually able to get him stabilized and on the road to recovery. "But then we thought, what do other people do who don’t have that opportunity and support?"

The Rutans began to reach out to other Park City families and discovered they were not alone. The group began pooling their resources and in May of 2016, with support from the Summit County Health Department, they established a nonprofit organization, CONNECT Summit County, and organized a month full of educational events focused on mental health.

That was three months before the community was rocked by the deaths of two middle school students from drug overdoses. Suddenly, CONNECT had an army of supporters.

Since then, a number of local agencies have joined forces under the umbrella of The Summit County Mental Wellness Alliance. Park City, Summit County, law enforcement, social services personnel, all three school districts and many faith groups are all represented and on Friday they gathered to kick off a region-wide effort.

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According to Ollie Wilder, program director for The Park City Community Foundation, which is also playing a key role in the alliance, "We are shooting big, we are really trying to make a difference in a big way for the whole county."

While anticipating a long process, Wilder added that the goal is to present the community with a set of preliminary recommendations in August.

During Friday's summit Wilder moderated a panel that included Corey Levy, Wellness manager for Vail Resorts; Tyler Walton, president of the Park City Interfaith Council; Lynne Rutan, co-founder of CONNECT; Katie Wright, executive director of the Park City Community Foundation; and Park City Council member Nann Worel.

Some of the highlights were:

Nann Worel said the Park City Council has elevated "citizen well being" to a top priority. "What’s important is that our community has recognized that we have an issue that we need to come together to work on it."

Tyler Walton said the Park City Interfaith Council represents 15 congregations that offer a unique perspective based on "acceptance, love and compassion." Many offer different types of services including counseling, referrals, financial resources for people in crisis and a variety of safety nets.

Corey Levy described a Vail Resorts' Wellness benefit that offers every employee and their household six free, confidential mental health sessions per year, per issue. He added that the resort works with local providers so that employees can set up appointments quickly and easily.

Lynne Rutanencouraged attendees to participate in CONNECT's upcoming Mental Health Awareness Month activities featuring lectures, panels, seminars and films. She said last year's program drew more than 900 people. She also directed people to CONNECT's mental health resource directory, which she described as the first of its kind in Summit county. (www.connectsummitcounty.org)

Katie Wright said the Park City Community Foundation had established a Field of Interest Fund to support the myriad efforts being undertaken by the Alliance. She encouraged people who have the "time, treasure or talent" to share to contact the individual organizations, or the foundation to learn more about how to get involved.

Mental Health Awareness Month begins May 3 with a free lecture by Gail Hornstein entitled "Our Minds and Each Other: Reimagining Mental Health." For a complete schedule of events go to: http://www.connectsummitcounty.org