HHCC reprioritizing youth mental health

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Healthy Henry County Communities is reevaluating their priorities.

After a year of working with requirements for the HRSA grant, a $1 million grant over three years awarded to HHCC, HHCC Coordinator Kelly Carr said they are moving in the right direction despite a little chaos.

?From everything we?re seeing and hearing, we?re on the forefront of where health care is going,? Carr said in an HHCC meeting on Tuesday, June 5. ?I think there?s really good potential for helping our community. It?s just the process of getting there.?

Through discussion, Carr established the high and low priorities for HHCC. The high priorities Carr wants the board and community partners to focus on are mental health, active living, healthy living, child abuse prevention and chronic disease management. Low priorities include transportation, dental care, youth child education and parent education.

These priorities are being examined and worked toward across the three committees already established under HHCC, including the HRSA action team. However, when it comes to substance abuse, Carr said HHCC has been struggling with educating teenagers in Henry County about the risk of marijuana use and underage drinking.

After sitting down with teenagers throughout the county, Carr has come to the conclusion that the use of marijuana and alcohol is a coping mechanism for high school students dealing with mental health issues. ?We want to take a step back, look at the root cause, which ties into HRSA and the mental health focus,? Carr said.

Carr said that the focus on youth doesn?t fit with the ways HHCC has worked toward changing the conversation around mental health; however, through reengaging current partners such as the schools and faith-based organizations and reaching out to new partners, she believes they can come up with different strategies for helping the mental health of youth.

Specifically, Sydney Walljasper, the current chair of the Substance Abuse Coalition through HHCC, has been tasked with this new youth focus on mental health.

?We?re not going to be able to fix the treatment side of mental health ? we?ll let Sarah (Berndt, of Henry County Coordinator of Disability Services) fix the treatment side,? Carr said as an aside. ?We thought looking at prevention, that would be our take on mental health.?

Carr informed the board that she was recently contacted by Wellmark, who wants to include HHCC in their Healthy Hometown Initiative. Although there?s no funding involved, Wellmark works with community coalitions like HHCC and assesses their services.

Carr thinks that HHCC is already ahead of the game in comparison to other coalitions Wellmark works with, but suggested she have them come in anyway and share tactics and what they?re doing in other communities. She hopes this could spark an idea that HHCC can relaunch as their own in Henry County.

The next HHCC meeting will be in August. The board is not holding a meeting in July.