OVERLAND PARK — In planning the mental health summit held last month in Kansas City, Mo., organizers focused on consumers, families, and members of the general public.
But it was the provider community who was the focus of a follow-up meeting held Tuesday at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus. Discussion items among the roughly three dozen attendees included:
- Provision of behavioral health services in schools and integration of mental health education into the curriculum
- Raising awareness and fighting the stigma of mental health
- Integrating psychiatric components into medical education
- Better coordination of services already available for consumers and providers
- “I think we need everything at the table,” said Dr. William Gabrielli Jr., a planning team member and chairman of psychiatry for the University of Kansas School of Medicine. “I have long been a believer in individual differences. Not one shoe will fit all people.”
The initial Creating Community Solutions-KC summit drew approximately 360 participants.
The gathering was part of a mental health initiative started by President Barack Obama in the wake of last year’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Jennifer Wilding coordinated the summit as director of Consensus, a local nonprofit that specializes in facilitating group discussions.
She said organizers have about $85,000 remaining from funds raised for the event, which is available as seed money for initiatives related to the 10 action items identified at the summit:
- Improve access to mental health services
- Improve coordination and transitions in service
- Increase awareness and utilization of existing resources
- Community campaign to educate the public (forums, public service announcements, positive media initiatives)
- Increase volunteerism, civic engagement (like the summit), and lobbying
- Engage faith/church community in awareness
- Develop K-12 mental health curriculum
- Incorporate mental health screenings in physical health visits and in schools
- Increase funding for and sustainability of programs that work
- Provide training for judicial and law enforcement personnel
- Planning team member Theresa Reyes-Cummings, director of program development for the Jackson County Community Mental Health Fund, said that the fund’s board members are interested in directing dollars toward initiatives that help achieve those goals.
Wilding said organizers are still sifting through 119 pages of data compiled from participants at the summit’s 35 tables. So, she said, there’s no set timetable on devising an action plan.
Movement already begun
Luis Cordoba said the Kansas City, Mo., school district is moving in the direction recommended by attendees on education.
He is executive director of the district’s office of student intervention, and he is another member of the summit planning team.
Cordoba said the district isn’t interested in pursuing funding for mental health services or competing with others for funding. But, he said, the district is now willing to allow services from outside providers in the schools — a recent policy shift by Supt. R. Stephen Green.
“We want the services. How can we educate our kids if they are not mentally well?” he said.
Cordoba advocated an approach of “brief intervention therapy” to keep students in school rather than sending them home and having them return the next day with the same problems.
He also said it’s very doable to incorporate education around mental illness into science and health curriculum.
At the Tuesday meeting, Beth Yoder Stein — a staff member at the Wyandot Center, a community mental health center in Kansas City, Kan. — worked with a group that tackled the issue of increasing awareness about mental illness.
Their hope, she said, would be to get mental illness to the point where breast cancer is now in terms of community awareness. She noted that the Kansas City Chiefs and other teams in the National Football League are wearing pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
KU Med’s Gabrielli said he would continue his push to make medical students aware of mental health issues through his involvement with a curriculum committee devising coursework for students during the clinical portion of their training.
And, said Summit coordinator Wilding, organizers are mindful of calls not to reinvent the wheel with new initiatives. She said that one of the overarching goals of the president’s national initiative is to complement existing local activities.
Maureen Womack, executive director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center, said she was pleased to hear about the involvement of the faith-based community.
Community member Lori Simpson, who said she had experienced addiction to prescription pain medication through a family member, told the group about her outreach efforts through the Live Forward program of The Church of the Resurrection in Leawood.
Felice McDaniel attended as an advocate for the mentally ill. She said her hope is that the discussion prompted by the summit leads to action.
Wilding told the group, “You have given us a great foundation to build on.”