Editorial: Adoption of Summit County mental health plan is a well-earned victory | ParkRecord.com

Editorial: Adoption of Summit County mental health plan is a well-earned victory

It was nothing short of a cause for celebration in Summit County.

The County Council recently voted unanimously to adopt the Summit County Mental Wellness Strategic Plan, a document that outlines the community's mental health and substance abuse treatment needs, as well as a path to improving services. The push to draft and pass the plan took roughly two years, but the need for one stretches well before that.

Summit County, like most communities across the country, has long lacked the resources to adequately address mental health and substance abuse problems. They are critical issues but ones that often reside beneath the surface, without the attention necessary to solve them.

That isn't the case in our community anymore, however. With the passage of the strategic plan, Summit County has taken a giant leap forward. And there is no shortage of credit to go around, from government entities like the Summit County Health Department to nonprofits like Valley Behavioral Health and Connect Summit County to ordinary citizens who took up the call to tackle these important issues.

The problems are by no means unique to Summit County, but according to all involved, the intensity of our community's response to them is. After the overdose deaths of two 13-year-old boys in 2016, officials cautioned that a school district, law enforcement agency, or even a county government, could never tackle the issues alone. Instead, it would take an entire dedicated community.

So far, that's what we've seen. Just more than a year after that tragedy, we're making more progress than ever — and there are no signs of the momentum fading. The strategic plan, which identifies where we are and where we want to be in the future, is a critical first step. It outlines goals such as expanding equitable access to services, increasing prevention efforts and establishing support systems for individuals in recovery, and also includes a detailed blueprint of how to get there.

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The next step is to actually make it happen, and the outpouring of community involvement and resources funneled into the effort should have residents optimistic about our chances. Priorities for 2018 include hiring a therapist to serve East Side residents through Valley Behavioral Health, implementing suicide prevention training, increasing outreach to the Spanish-speaking population and waging an awareness campaign. That's in addition to the recent creation of a local Communities that Care program designed to provide services for our youth.

Just five years ago, few could have foreseen any of that in Summit County. But five years from now, hopefully mental health and substance abuse services are so ingrained in our community that it will astound us that we ever lived without them.

If that vision comes to fruition, thanks to the hard work of everyone involved in the effort, we'll look back on the passage of the Mental Wellness Strategic Plan as a landmark day, indeed.