Survey identifies strong interest in mental health education

Apr 24, 2014

As part of its mission to ensure quality care in western North Carolina, Smoky Mountain LME-MCO recently conducted an unprecedented survey of public needs for information about mental health, behavioral health and substance abuse. The survey across Smoky’s 23-county service area received a record number of responses and uncovered a clear demand for more information and education.

As a part of setting a comprehensive Community Education Plan, Smoky distributed Community Education Survey to families, community members and providers and received more than 650 responses. Community members identified clear questions about mental health, substance abuse and intellectual/developmental disability issues.

Genny Pugh, senior director of community collaboration at Smoky, was enthusiastic about the community’s interest, as well as the commitment that Smoky has to be responsive to the community’s clear desire for training, information and a focus on ways to de-stigmatize these issues which affect so many families.

“One of the exciting elements in the growth of our community collaboration efforts is to truly reach out to families, individuals dealing with behavioral health and intellectual disability issues, and others who work with adults and youth, and to offer these groups tools to promote early identification and wellness, and to help people locate community supports,” said Pugh.

Some highlights of findings the survey include:

— 46 percent said they want to learn more about how to access services.

— 38 percent are interested in learning about signs of mental illness.

— 37 percent are interested in substance abuse prevention.

— 36 percent are interested in learning more about self-advocacy.

— 80 percent of respondents are interested in meetings and training sessions to learn about these issues.

“We’re thrilled to have reached a record number of participants with this year’s survey and look forward to delivering information on these important issues to the community through our evidence-based programming for the upcoming year,” said Pugh. “These survey responses will be the cornerstone to our community outreach as reflected in Smoky’s Community Education Plan.”

As part of its response to the clear community interest in learning more about these issues, Smoky is planning upcoming events for some of the most notable areas the community identified:

— Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP): As a part of Smoky’s commitment to support of recovery oriented systems of care, WRAP is one of the evidence-based programs included in the Community Education Plan.  Certified WRAP trainers will facilitate workshops focusing on recovery and self-management skills and strategies. Cultivating hope, personal responsibility, education, self-advocacy and support, sessions support the building of a lifestyle that promotes wellness.

— Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid Trainings: In order to prepare adults engaged with children and teens, Smoky facilitates a Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training, which helps participants quickly identify signs and symptoms of mental health issues. The early identification of symptoms is key to ensuring that resources and support can be implemented and can prevent a potential crisis. The MHFA program is open to any adult who has regular contact with children, whether in a teaching, coaching or mentoring capacity. Adult Mental Health First Aid is a companion program focusing on early identification of signs and symptoms of mental health issues in adults.

While Smoky will begin with these initial support and training efforts, the Community Education Plan will establish ongoing education and training opportunities throughout the year.

“Smoky will be developing a menu of education and support activities across the 23-county area that will address these needs across the lifespan and areas of interest,” said Pugh.