Local data and input from nonprofit partners continue to identify increasing access to and availability of mental health care services as a key priority, especially for individuals who face the greatest barriers to accessing care.
Recent data from the Ottawa County Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) shows that 19.8% of Ottawa County adults are considered to have mild to severe psychological distress; adult depression is most common in younger adults (18-24) and those with the lowest incomes (<$20K); and sizable portions of people who currently suffer from some form of mental illness are not undergoing treatment. Similarly, the most recent Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey reports that nearly one in three teens have struggled with their mental health in the past year, and one in five have seriously thought about suicide.
At the same time, mental health service providers are experiencing challenges as clients present with more severe mental health needs that require long-term intervention and care. A shortage of behavioral health providers has resulted in long waitlists and made it difficult for individuals, especially those experiencing poverty, to access the help they need in a timely manner.
Through its proactive grant program, CFHZ commits resources to targeted areas of investment as part of our commitment to build a fully thriving community. The Community’s Endowment at CFHZ, which is a philanthropic resource created by generous donors to respond to pressing needs and promising opportunities now and in the future makes these grants possible. CFHZ awarded a total of $130,000 to three nonprofit partners who are committed to providing mental health services for the community, and especially for those who face the greatest barriers to accessing care.
Mosaic Counseling – Increasing Capacity of Mosaic’s School Outreach Program in SW Ottawa Co.
Amount awarded: $60,000 over two years.
Purpose: To increase Mosaic’s capacity to effectively implement their School Outreach Program by helping to fund the School Outreach Coordinator position and increasing the hours of their six therapists in existing partner schools that currently have a waitlist for students to be seen. It will also support the Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) suicide prevention Mosaic’s School Outreach Program currently serves 26 schools, including schools in the districts of West Ottawa, Holland, and Zeeland. The program is designed to be student focused and therapists that meet with students identify and track symptoms related to depression, anxiety, hopelessness, irritability, interest in activities and peers, and absenteeism. The program model additionally includes mental health access for parents. Spanish speaking therapists on the team are easily able to communicate with Spanish speaking parents to remove any language barriers for parents to learn about Mosaic and access affordable mental health services for them or other family members.
Sarah Lewakowski, Executive Director of Mosaic Counseling, said, “Mosaic’s School Outreach Program helps students to improve self-confidence, overall mood, and self-esteem. One student told their Mosaic therapist that they never imagined that they would be able to talk with a therapist. This student is one of hundreds that will have financial and transportation barriers removed as the grant from CFHZ allows us to increase our impact.”
Corewell Health – School Telemedicine Program
Amount awarded: $46,900 over two years.
Purpose: To connect Zeeland East and Zeeland West High School students with mental health services embedded within the school setting. Virtual mental health services are offered by appointment, five days a week throughout the school year. Program referrals will be made by parents/guardians, students themselves, and school mental health staff who believe students need more extensive support. Telehealth services will be provided by licensed master social workers (LMSWs) who specialize in adolescent mental health needs such as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and personality disorders. There will be a network of interpreters capable of translating 200 languages for students with language barriers and includes interpretation support for deaf/hard of hearing. This program has the potential to increase access to mental health services among Zeeland high school students and help youth overcome their mental health struggles, regardless of family income, language, or transportation barriers.
“Behavioral health issues among adolescents are at an all-time high. Our program allows adolescents to receive services by removing barriers to access care in their own communities. We are extremely grateful for our partnership with Zeeland Public schools, as well as to CFHZ for their ongoing support. These grant dollars are making a difference in the community every day,” said Katie Thorsen, Manager of the Telehealth Program at Corewell Health.
Treetops Collective – Circles of Support and Facilitation Training and Coaching
Amount awarded: $23,100
Purpose: To help identify and train local facilitators for the expansion of the Circles of Support program to Ottawa County. Treetops works with individuals that have been through immigration processes, and the Circles program is a peer support group model that addresses gaps in local mental health support resources in culturally appropriate ways. A consultant with expertise in trauma healing, the Treetops Program Operations Director, and six immigrant and refugee leaders created the curriculum. Treetops will partner with local nonprofits in the Holland/Zeeland area, and tap into their established relationships to bring the Circles of Support program to Ottawa County.
Abigail Punt, Development Director at Treetops Collective, said, “We are delighted to embark on this partnership with dedicated community leaders in the Holland/Zeeland area to increase the mental health support available to immigrants and refugees in the region. Our Circles of Support curriculum has been a source of healing and empowerment for families throughout Kent County under the leadership of New American facilitators, and we are delighted to see this same impact along the Lakeshore under the guidance of trusted community-based organizations Movement West Michigan, Latin Americans United for Progress and Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates!”
Yadah V. Ramirez, Director of Community Impact at CFHZ, said, “Our proactive grants prioritize investments into areas of greatest need for the community. With so many of our neighbors experiencing mental health concerns, we are grateful for the opportunity to support the local organizations that are increasing access to and availability of mental health care, especially for vulnerable individuals, individuals with limited financial resources, and youth.”