Summit County proves it is committed to improving mental health services | ParkRecord.com

Summit County proves it is committed to improving mental health services

The Park Record editorial, April 29-May 2, 2017

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"Everyone here has been touched by this. I lost a brother to substance abuse," said Summit County Council member Kim Carson as she helped introduce a new community-wide, multi-agency mental health initiative last Friday. Addressing an audience of more than 70 leaders from multiple organizations, she added, "When I look around this room I am hopeful. Summit County is proud to be a part of this."

The event featured a noted public-health-care innovator from Texas and a panel of concerned business, religious, nonprofit and elected leaders and marked the official unveiling of the Summit County Mental Wellness Alliance which is spearheaded by the county health department and supported by Park City, Summit County, the Park City Community Foundation, all three local school districts and other groups.

There were also breakout sessions on local mental health issues related to the criminal justice system, substance abuse and suicide prevention.

The event also served as a kickoff for Mental Health Awareness Month which begins May 2 and is hosted by the Park City based nonprofit CONNECT.

CONNECT was organized by local parents Ed and Lynne Rutan as an outgrowth of their efforts to find mental health care for their son. As they searched for resources and support they learned that many others in the community faced similar challenges. And when two local teens died simultaneously of drug overdoses, the need to focus on mental health resources became a rallying cry for the whole community.

During Mental Health Awareness Month, local citizens can learn more about how to improve their own mental health and to help others. Movies, lectures and panel discussions will delve into a variety of topics including: sleeplessness, post-partum depression, Alzheimer's disease, drug abuse, adolescent psychosis and suicide prevention.

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Almost all of the events are free and take place at various locations around Park City. For details go to: http://www.connectsummitcounty.org

The response to CONNECT and to the new Mental Wellness Alliance has been encouraging and already there are tangible results — the county health department has created a new position for a Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coordinator and CONNECT has evolved from an all-volunteer effort to hiring a full-time director. Additionally, the county health department conducted an extensive survey confirming what many citizens in need of help already suspected — local mental health care service providers are over worked and understaffed.

Summit County's mental health challenges are not unique. But its proactive approach is, and that, as Carson says, is something we can all be proud of.