Building Hope Summit County, a mental health nonprofit that provides resources for all demographics, has seen success in improving access to care and reducing stigma through the years.
Building Hope and community partners — the Summit Community Care Clinic, the Summit County Sheriff Office’s SMART program and more — worked last year to create a data collection plan to help understand the collective impact of various efforts in transforming the local behavioral health system.
New data, collected from Building Hope’s community survey, illustrates changes from 2020 to 2022. The first survey finished in March 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic, and the second roughly spanned February through April of this year. The surveys were conducted on paper, online and over the phone in English and Spanish for maximum representation.
A key takeaway was that Building Hope found some facets of behavioral health that have improved since 2020. For instance, the average number of poor mental health days per month experienced by residents went from 6.6 to 5.0 between 2020 to 2022, respectively.
“I would like to attribute that to how we have been making strides as a community to recognize mental health and behavioral health as a core challenge that we want to address — and have really worked hard to address, especially in the last five years,” Laura Landrum, Building Hope youth program coordinator, said.
Landrum said some of the progress comes from initiatives like Fit to Recover classes, support groups, mini grants and various programs funded by Summit County 1A Strong Futures money. Building Hope’s data showed that those funded community organizations treated over 2,500 residents in 2021.
An additional highlight is the percent of residents who consume one or more drinks in a typical month, which went down by 5% since early 2020. Still, 45% of residents have seen substance use negatively affect their lives or someone else’s, and the amount of people who see alcohol as important to socializing in 2020 (41%) stayed roughly the same in 2022 (42%).
“The fact that drinking has gone down from prepandemic levels, I think, is really notable,” Landrum said, adding that she could only guess for the reason why.
Yet the group recognizes that they could do more when it comes to improving access. In the past 12 months, Building Hope said 43% of residents needed mental health treatment or counseling, and while 68% of residents who sought treatment were able to obtain adequate care, that means 32% couldn’t.
The leading barrier to support is cost and lack of insurance coverage, but Building Hope notes that over 100 behavioral health providers accept the nonprofit’s scholarships. These scholarships pay for up to 12 free therapy sessions, which Building Hope mental health program manager Kellyn Ender said cost roughly $85 each.
“Maybe people don’t think accepting a scholarship is for them, and they’re worried about taking need from other people who might be less fortunate and things like that,” Ender said.
Landrum added there is a shortage of providers and that Building Hope is working to increase in-person access. The survey said 78% of residents are open to behavioral health treatment via telehealth.
According to the survey, 68% of residents have someone in the community they can turn to if they need or want help, and 83% of Summit County teens feel connected to a trusted adult. However, the nonprofit is concerned that 36% of residents therefore feel lonely.
The survey looked at how people put time and effort into the community in relation to how long they’ve lived in the area. Of those who have lived one to five years in Summit, 47% agree that they put in effort. That percentage then increases to 81% for residents who have lived longer in Summit, such as six to 10 years. However, the results dropped off after that peak. The results lowered to 56% for respondents who have lived in the area for 11 to 15 years. It went up to only 68% for respondents for those who have lived 16 years or longer in Summit County.
Another Building Hope discussion, focusing on racial equity and the behavioral health landscape is set for 3-4 p.m. on Sept. 28 at a location that still needs to be determined. Interested attendees can visit BuildingHopeSummit.org for more information.
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