The last decade has seen alarming increases in the prevalence of mental health problems in young people, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. To build a community of helpers to support the mental health needs of adolescents in Olathe, Johnson County Mental Health Center received a federal grant to provide mental health awareness training to school staff, first responders, and adolescent peers. The Johnson County Board of Commissioners voted on Thursday to accept the $495,779 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
“These grant funds will be extremely helpful in supporting the mental health needs of young people in our community,” said President Mike Kelly. “This is another Johnson tool The county and its community partners can use it to promote the safety and well-being of all generations in our community.”
The grant will support a four-year project to provide early interventions for adolescents in Olathe that can help reduce the severity of mental health symptoms, delay the onset of mental illness, or prevent mental illness altogether. The Johnson County Mental Health Center will work with Olathe Public Schools, the Kansas School for the Deaf, the Olathe Police Department and the Olathe Fire Department to train 4,000 school, first responder and emergency staff members students in mental health first aid. 50 individuals will also receive Applied Suicide Intervention Skills (ASIST) training.
“50 percent of mental illnesses begin by age 14, but the average gap between symptom onset and treatment initiation for a mental illness is 11 years,” said Shana Burgess, director of Prevention and Health Services. of Johnson County Mental Health Community Relations. Center, “Equipping these adults and peers with the tools they need to respond appropriately and safely to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders will help our community connect adolescents to the appropriate support, resources, and treatment.” as soon as possible”.
According to the Kansas Communities That Care (KCTC) Student Survey, 26% of 8th graders and 31% of 12th graders in Olathe public schools reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness affecting their lives daily. School staff are often the first to recognize a student struggling with mental health, but many feel unprepared to provide support.
“We are so excited about the training many of our staff members will receive through this generous grant,” said Angie Salava, director of Mental Health Services at Olathe Public Schools. “At Olathe Public Schools, one of the goals of our strategic plan is that every student will benefit from an educational experience that is conducive to their behavioral, social and emotional development. With this training, we will be better able to help support the mental health needs of our students so they can thrive in their learning.
The mental health awareness training provided by the project will be in addition to the mental health training already provided to Olathe Police officers, which includes Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and mental health first aid training . The Olathe Police Department estimates that the number of calls related to a mental health issue has quadrupled in the past decade, while the Olathe Fire Department has responded to 1,718 incidents involving overdoses, suicides or other mental health issues in the past three years.
“We are grateful that Johnson County Mental Health Center has received this grant,” said Sgt. Joel Yeldell of the Olathe Police Department, “Early intervention and inter-agency cooperation continue to be critical to adolescent mental health. We are excited to grow our innovative and established programs and to further the great partnerships we have with Johnson County Mental Health Center and others in helping those in need.”
“Grants like this have a direct and positive impact on the community as a whole,” said Captain Mike Hall of the Olathe Fire Department, “Having the ability to properly help people when they need it is so powerful and should never be overlooked. We are thrilled to be a part of this partnership and this project.”
In addition to providing mental health first aid and ASIST courses, the project will create print and electronic materials to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and raise awareness of mental health resources and supports. Two teen-led organizations, Zero Reasons Why and the Olathe Teen Council, will help create the materials and deliver the messages to their peers.