Crawford County Mental Health Coalition strives to facilitate community resources

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By Correne Martin

 

Did you know that Crawford County has a Mental Health Coalition?

This coalition is here to assist the community with issues of mental health, substance abuse and suicide, with the intent to become factored into the equation more upstream, before the issues present themselves. The focus is on raising awareness, providing training, supporting prevention services and reducing the stigma.

Leading the coalition are Licensed Professional Counselor Lacie Anthony, who is the program manager for the Crossing Rivers Health Center for Behavioral Health, and Dan McWilliams, the Crawford County Health and Human Services Director. Many organizations are then represented as well, including professionals from health and human services, UW-Extension, local schools, law enforcement, home health, Gundersen Health, Mayo Clinic and Crossing Rivers. In addition, there are some community members who are part of the coalition.

“We’d like to see some more non-traditional partners, or businesses, represented. They’re impacted by mental health issues as well,” Anthony said. “Eventually, we’d like to see a movement in the community to have this become more of a homegrown initiative.”

“Where Lacie and I are just members, and the community leads this,” added McWilliams. 

The Mental Health Coalition has existed for about seven years in the county. It’s had member changes and various levels of momentum over the years. Currently, there is more action happening behind the scenes and the public is encouraged to pay attention to how they can become involved in making a difference. 

“We always look for the good things that come out of adversity. I think we can all get behind community-based prevention and wellness, where it’s OK to do something good with your family and it’s OK to talk about mental health.”

Every three years, the coalition participates in a Community Health Needs Assessment with neighboring professionals in the Crossing Rivers Health, Grant Regional Health Center and Boscobel Gundersen Area Health Care collaborative service area. 

Certain numbers from this last year struck McWilliams and Anthony both as alarming. 

First, 19 lives per 100,000 were lost to suicide. 

The assessment’s crisis numbers—showing somebody who needed hospitalization—resulted in 400 episodes, a number that was almost double the previous result. 

“People are really needing help. Anyone who comes through that, we’re trying to connect to them,” Anthony  explained. 

McWilliams noted, “I think an important piece to remember, too, is this is just from the county perspective. These needs exist from every border. The good sign is that people are realizing they can reach out.”

The assessment also concludes with a plan of action and a set of goals the coalition would like to address. 

Of course, raising awareness is an important part of that focus. One way they plan to do so is through an upcoming Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) training program. Anthony shared that this type of training is evidence-based. It is to teach people to question first, then help somebody decide they need help, and finally refer them to a helpful resource.

“We want people to know that when you need help, there is help,” McWilliams said. “If people reach out and seek help, that education occurs and the connection to resources occurs. It also offers hope that, sometimes, when things are really difficult, there’s somebody somewhere with help to offer.”

The two also shared their longterm desire to bring behavioral health issues up to the same level of public concern as physical health issues.

“It’s really part of your overall health,” Anthony said. “Having these conversations out in the open not only helps people feel better but also helps save lives.”

Behavioral health providers are very busy, Anthony admitted. However, there is always a resource available. Aside from a counselor or psychologist, one could visit with their primary care provider or, effective July 16, call 988. These three digits together have been designated as the new dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Until then, call 800-273-8255. Furthermore, calling 211 can connect you with a team of information and referral specialists. Certainly, call 911 if you’re experiencing a life-threatening situation.

McWilliams pointed out that residents in need can also access under insured and non-insured resources through the Crawford County Health and Human Services Department, available at the county administration building or by calling 326-0248.

“It’s scary and people struggle to know what to do,” Anthony said. “But if you’re experiencing chest pains, you talk to someone about it. The same goes for mental health issues.”

To find out more about how you can join the Mental Health Coalition, contact Anthony at lacie.anthony@crossingrivers.org or McWilliams at dmcwilliams@crawfordcountywi.org.

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