Health Department hires Basin man to coordinate mental health effort
Aaron Newman will help connect resources within the community
Aaron Newman says he hopes his new position with the Summit County Health Department as the mental health and substance abuse coordinator won’t ultimately be needed.
The Summit County Health Department created his job to help facilitate partnerships between mental health and substance abuse agencies after receiving the results of November’s community mental health survey.
Newman, a 10-year Snyderville Basin resident, started on Monday in the temporary, 12-month position.
“There has already been a coalition of people coming together and they have been having these ongoing conversations now for several months,” Newman said. “It is not just myself or a few people coming to the table. This is a community effort that was created by these agencies.
“It is a little bit of weight on the shoulders, but it is one that is really not super heavy because we know what the outcome could be,” he said.
The Health Department, along with various agencies, elected leaders and school district officials, is making significant strides to begin implementing the strategic directives that were identified from the survey. The directives, officials hope, will help close the gaps in the community’s mental health and substance abuse services.
Health Department Director Rich Bullough said Newman’s position was needed because the Health Department lacked the personnel to effectively tackle the issue.
“Aaron is going to be a tremendous resource for the Summit County Mental Wellness Alliance moving forward,” Bullough said in a press release. “He has vast experience with all of the skills, we believe, are required to succeed in this challenging position. We’re thrilled that he has an interest in working with us to address these important issues.”
Newman has spent more than 15 years working in crisis response at universities across the country, including New England College and Aurora University. For eight years, he worked at Weber State University as the director of Student Involvement and Leadership.
Newman’s background revolves around crisis response and intervention. While working in higher education, Newman said he would often be the first person students would approach if they were struggling with an issue, such as mental health or substance abuse.
“For the last two years I was at the National Ability Center working with some of the training programs and training staff on QPR (suicide prevention training),” Newman said. “Seeing some of our returning warriors and their issues was a way for me to still connect. I hate to call it that, but it’s almost like a calling because it is something that I truly connect with.”
Newman, like many others in the community who have taken up the mental-health gauntlet, said he has been personally affected by the suicides of those close to him. He added, “It is something that needs to be addressed and having dealt with that first hand and working at the university there are some fundamental aspects we need to answer to help connect people to the resources they need.”
“My role in higher education was very similar to what I will be doing here because it is not just about bringing resources together and creating that coalition, but really listening to what their needs are,” Newman said. “This is, unfortunately, not a unique problem to Summit County. It is happening all over the country. Part of what this position will be is: how do we address this, how do we move forward with this and how do we bring all these players to the table?”
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A gas leak forced the evacuation of North Summit High School and North Summit Middle School Monday afternoon in Coalville. No injuries were reported.