Summit County Health Department creates new position to deal with substance abuse and mental health
Position will be critical in community’s efforts to improve services
February 24, 2017
The Summit County Health Department's recently created a new position dedicated to mental health and substance abuse, signifying a critical step in the community's efforts toward upgrading the services that are offered in the county.
Last week, the Health Department began advertising for a mental health and substance abuse coordinator to fill a temporary, 12-month contract position that does not currently exist. The advertisement is expected to close on March 3.
Rich Bullough, director of the Health Department, said additional capacity is needed within the department in order to "really improve and impact the health of the community" in the areas of mental health and substance abuse.
"It is absolutely critical," Bullough said. "We have some momentum right now to move forward on this issue and a fair number of people want to be a part of that."
The county's mental health needs assessment survey in November identified the community's gaps in services and outlined strategic directives for closing them. A steering committee of community members created the survey after the Summit County Council reiterated its commitment to addressing the inconsistencies that exist in the mental health system.
The Health Department, along with the help of The Park City Community Foundation, has been at the helm since the survey results were released and several working groups have been formed to focus on the strategic priorities outlined in the assessment. The first community-wide meeting was held on Feb. 14. More than 50 attended, Bullough said.
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Bullough said he hopes the new mental health and substance abuse coordinator will help facilitate partnerships within the community and continue moving the strategic planning process forward. He said several candidates have expressed interest in the position.
"We want to move to a real plan, not just a description, but the way we are going to tackle the problem," Bullough said. "The product that will come out of this toward the end of 2017 will be a strategic plan that will have specific partners, targets and activities associated with that.
"It will take a very special person who will have their fingerprints all over this and, ultimately, keep this whole process going," he said.
In December, Bullough approached the County Council at the end of the budgeting process and requested an additional $60,000 to finance the position. He said the County Council and Board of Health "were generous enough to support my desire to get someone on board."
Dodi Wilson, director of Valley Behavioral Health, said she supports the Health Department's decision to create the position and has been working closely with them since the gaps were first identified.
"I love how this county is coming together and working together for the better of our community to provide a better framework," Wilson said. "I am very positive about the changes that are coming out of the needs assessment survey and we're super supportive of the Park City Community Foundation and CONNECT."
Ed Rutan, who sits on one of the working groups and is one of the founding members of the nonprofit organization CONNECT, said the Health Department's decision to hire for the position renews the community's commitment to the process "in a very serious way."
"I'm very excited about it because the implementation process is extremely important to move ahead and having this coordinating position available on a full-time basis will help the steering committee and working groups think through specific proposals that we could then recommend to our elected officials," Rutan said.