Community turns out for mental health event | ParkRecord.com

Community turns out for mental health event

Nearly 100 attended panel and workshop discussions

Summit County's Mental Wellness Alliance has challenged the community to take ownership of the mental health and substance abuse problems that exist in Summit County and they are responding.

On Friday, nearly 100 people attended the alliance's community event featuring mental health and substance abuse discussions, panels and workshops at the Park City Hospital. Keynote speaker Leon Evans, president and CEO of The Center for Health Care Services in San Antonio, Texas, led the discussion "Getting it right on mental health and substance abuse: The San Antonio Experience."

The event was the Mental Health Alliance's first opportunity to update the community about the ongoing effort to address mental health and substance abuse services in the county. The alliance is which is comprised of several agencies and governing bodies including the Health Department.

Summit County Health Department Director Rich Bullough said he did not recognize most of the attendees at the event, adding "obviously, there is a need and we are starting to get the word out."

"The last event we had there were about 40 people and the one thing that concerned me with that turnout is they were the same familiar faces that have been involved all along," Bullough said. "But I think everyone is really pleased that something is being done. The universal word that was said to me at the event was, 'Thanks.'"

Breakout sessions were held during the event to explore youth prevention, the role the criminal justice system plays and receive feedback from professionals and providers.

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While officials were pleased with the turnout, they said the event reminded them to continue reaching out to other groups in the community, such as veterans, Latino's and residents on the East Side.

"We are trying to keep on top of this and make sure to involve everyone who has an interest in this and should be served by this," said Ollie Wilder, programs director for the Park City Community Foundation. "The event on Friday was bigger than anything we have in mind for the next foreseeable future, but it's been super helpful to hear people's input and to get their ideas."

Aaron Newman, the Health Department's new mental health and substance abuse coordinator, said a small measure of success is the number of people in the community who are beginning to engage and share their stories.

"It is becoming more of a community conversation now," Newman said.

This week, the Health Department plans to issue a follow-up survey to those who attended the event. Newman said a similar survey will be sent to the five East Side City Councils.

"We want to know what those gaps are and it is important to recognize we have several different areas in the county and it is important to get their perspectives," Newman said.

Bullough stressed the importance of providing an ongoing opportunity for the community to be a part of the process.

"That is not as simple as it sounds, though. We have a lot of individuals we need to continue to reach out to and engage otherwise they become disenfranchised very quickly," Bullough said. "For me, that is an immediate obligation and why the survey is so important."

On Wednesday, the County Council is scheduled to consider declaring May as Mental Health Awareness Month. CONNECT Summit County, a nonprofit organization that is part of the Mental Health Alliance, will be hosting a series of events and discussions to honor the month.

"This isn't going away. That's the one thing I have continued to mull over in my own mind is what does the future hold with this entire initiative?" Bullough said. "And the future is very bright, but, also challenging and, frankly, intimidating.

"This is part of our community now and that's not on us, that's on the community," Bullough said. "In my mind that is the overall initiative's greatest accomplishment: this is part of the community discussion now and I think it will continue to be heightened and will continue to be public."