Press Release: Mental Health First Aid In Eastern Oregon

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The Eastern Oregon Healthy Living Alliance’s Mental Health First Aid In Eastern Oregon report describes its impact of providing 39 trainings in the region, training 576 individuals in Mental Health First Aid, across 11 of the 12 Eastern Oregon counties. 98% of the training participants were certified and 83% of participants reported an increased confidence level in their ability to identify individuals experiencing mental illness and substance use disorders and refer them to the appropriate care. Based on post training surveys, participants who responded reported making 198 referrals to care and 81 of those referrals resulted in known connections to care for individuals who struggled with mental health symptoms and illness. Trainings have been provided to public educators, law enforcement agencies, individuals working with older adults, and other public and social service employees who work closely with the community.  

MHFA and Youth MHFA courses are community education, training, and referral programs. They train community members how to identify, understand, and respond to individuals who may be experiencing signs of a mental illness or other substance use disorders. “First aid” is then administered to connect those individuals to the appropriate care. MHFA and Youth MHFA programs are included within the National Registry of Evidence-based Practices and Programs.  The project was initiated in Eastern Oregon to help address mental health, a regional health priority.  

EOHLA Board President and Certified Mental Health First Aid trainer, Eilene Flory, states, " Rural communities have a long history of taking responsibility and supporting one another.  Mental Health First Aid is a way to build the community's capacity to identify mental health and substance use issues early and for rural residents to gain confidence in intervening and referring a person to available resources.  Additionally, the increased understanding of mental health helps to reduce the stigma and negative perceptions often associated with these issues."

EOHLA worked closely with Greater Oregon Behavioral Health, Inc. (GOBHI) throughout the duration of this project. 24 of the 39 trainings utilized GOBHI staff as trainers. Former GOBHI School Based Program Coordinator and MHFA Eastern Oregon Coordinator/Instructor Erin Rust, and GOBHI Children's Health & Community Supervisor Linda Watson played essential roles in coordinating trainings, including connecting EOHLA staff with collaborating agencies, connecting trainers with EOHLA, providing training resources, and conducting a number of trainings themselves. 

Oregon has the highest prevalence of mental illness among youth and adults in the nation according to the 2018 Oregon State Health Assessment. Mental health was identified by the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (EOCCO) as a priority area in the Regional Community Health Improvement Plan with a goal of improving the skill sets of residents of EOCCO to recognize and seek treatment (or encourage others) for mental health issues. High percentages of individuals in the 12 county EOCCO region self-report depression or other mental health symptoms; however, they fail to seek the appropriate care.

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