Summit County Health Department launches much-needed mental health care initiative |

Summit County Health Department launches much-needed mental health care initiative

The Park Record editorial, Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2016


Finally, someone is listening. In response to the efforts of a group of concerned citizens last spring, and to a shocking tragedy in September, the Summit County Health Department has taken the lead in an initiative to assess and expand local mental health services.

The first step, a community-wide survey, confirmed what families, clergy, health care providers and law enforcement personnel have been saying for years – that too many people suffering from mental health issues are not receiving adequate services. According to the survey, many who want help don't know where to go. Once they do find help, they may encounter long wait times or other barriers like high costs or lack of transportation.

In fact, the list of gaps in Summit County's health care safety net is daunting. As families seeking help for loved ones know all too well, there is a dearth of both inpatient and residential services. And, due to a lack of other intervention alternatives, too many crises end up in the hands of sheriff's deputies and police officers in the emergency room.

But, there is heartening news, too. Local school districts are emphasizing education and awareness programs about bullying, substance abuse and suicide prevention. The People's Health Clinic, the Christian Center of Park City and Valley Behavioral Health are all helping to coordinate counseling and intervention services and, importantly, the community as a whole has begun to talk openly about mental health issues.

The Summit County Health Department has made a commitment to work with agencies throughout the area on reducing the stigma of mental illness, increasing patient capacity and expanding access. But they will need your support. In the coming months, local leaders will be seeking additional input on what services are needed and how to fund them.

Our problems are not unique. Statistics from around the state and the country show alarming increases in substance abuse, youth suicide and other symptoms of untreated mental instability. We are not immune. But as a proactive and committed community, we can do better.

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The Summit County Health Department will present the findings of the Mental Health Needs assessment Survey to the Park City Council Thursday, Dec. 1, followed by presentations to the Park City, North and South Summit School Districts. There will also be a series of public meetings after the holidays.