Recommendations from the Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Study
This week’s blog is written by Tom Barnet, Chair, Spartanburg County Behavioral Health Taskforce
Spartanburg County Behavioral Health Task Force
In 2012, the Joint Funders, consisting of Mary Black Foundation, Spartanburg Regional Foundation, The Spartanburg County Foundation, and United Way of the Piedmont, conducted a detailed needs assessment of behavioral health in Spartanburg County. This Behavioral Health Needs Assessment for Spartanburg County was the springboard for the Behavioral Health Taskforce (BHTF), and the implementation of a host of community changes in how we address behavioral and mental health issues.
Focus on Child and Adolescent Health
In 2019, we revisited that concept with a direct focus on child and adolescent needs. Funded in large part by the Mary Black Foundation and with additional support from the seven Spartanburg School Districts and the BHTF, more than 40 professionals, hands-on to youth questions and needs, convened over a series of several months to develop a list of ten recommendations, strategies and priorities.
- The expansion of ACEs, initially funded by the BHTF, is a critical component of building a trauma-informed community and trauma-resilient youth. Plans are being developed to reach out to pre-school and daycare service providers, to smaller law-enforcement jurisdictions, and to afterschool programs, among others.
- Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), generally recognized as the optimal training for those in contact with individuals in crisis, is being re-introduced and expanded. Likewise, we will see an expansion of parent education programs.
- Hospital Emergency Department (ED) and School Counselors are trying to develop new and common protocols for youth in crisis.
- A resource location alternative for youth, not dissimilar to the Peer Support Living Room established here for adults, is under joint discussion between Spartanburg and Greenville.
- Modifications to the ED facilities for children and adolescents are being seriously evaluated.
- The Department of Mental Health is committed to embedding high-quality professional counselors in every school in Spartanburg by 2023.
All of these maintain the long-term focus of the BHTF to pursue sustainable upstream strategies to reduce downstream demand for services.
Eliminating the Stigma
But all the plans and strategies are no better than our willingness to recognize that the stigma of mental illness and behavioral health issues must be overcome. Science now identifies mental health as the other half of the healthcare spectrum. Addiction is not a moral failing but an identified and often genetic disease of the brain.
If we subscribe to these beliefs then the work of making Spartanburg a healthier place to live will be well on the road to accomplishment.
To view the full report on the Spartanburg Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Study, click here.