Record editorial: We’ve made progress, but aren’t yet finished addressing mental health | ParkRecord.com

Record editorial: We’ve made progress, but aren’t yet finished addressing mental health

It’s been a transformative few years for the effort to address mental health in Summit County.

Our community has taken a leap forward in how we discuss the topic and help people struggling with mental health problems since the push to take action began to coalesce in 2015 and 2016. That’s something everyone in Summit County can be proud of, and it’s a credit to the many people — local government officials, nonprofit staffers and private residents — who have worked hard to get us to this point. It’s an example of what a community full of passionate people can do when it identifies a problem and diverts resources to it.

But we’re nowhere near finished.

As the people who have been most deeply involved in the effort readily admit, there remain areas where services in our community are lacking. The task of adequately addressing the issue won’t be complete until a broad range of resources are readily available and every resident has access to affordable mental health services.

Summit County, for one, is taking another step to fill the remaining gaps. Amid an evaluation of the county’s mental health needs, staffers put out a call seeking proposals from firms interested in providing state-mandated services to residents who are uninsured or receive Medicaid. County officials are now in the process of choosing between two finalists. Importantly, both use a “network” model that is intended to give patients more choice in their treatment and, officials say, would drastically cut wait times for important services that currently hover around 100 days.

One troubling factor, however, threatens to stifle our advancement: the stigma. Despite the progress we’ve made, and the awareness that has been raised, advocates say negative connotations remain attached to mental health problems, even in our community.

We can combat that problem by being open about personal struggles, supporting efforts to educate others about mental health and viewing the issue with empathy and compassion.

We’ve come a long way in a short time. But if every resident in Summit County who understands the importance of the task at hand follows that approach, there’s no telling how much more progress we can make in another five or 10 years.