By ALANNA CHAMULAK
Eastern Oregon Healthy Living Alliance
Eastern Oregon Healthy Living Alliance’s (EOHLA) Mental Health First Aid report describes the impact of providing 30 training sessions, training 553 individuals in Mental Health First Aid across 11 of the 12 Eastern Oregon counties. Ninety-nine percent of the training participants became certified in Mental Health First Aid, and 81 percent of participants reported increased confidence 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, the training sessions have led to 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.
Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid 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. Both the adult and youth programs are included within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 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 worked closely with Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc. (GOBHI) throughout the duration of this project. Twenty of the 30 trainings utilized GOBHI staff as trainers. GOBHI School-based Program coordinator and Mental Health First Aid Eastern Oregon coordinator/instructor Erin Rust and GOBHI Children's Health and 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 Community Care Organization (EOCCO) as a priority area in the Regional Community Health Improvement Plan, with a goal of improving Eastern Oregon residents’ skill sets to recognize and seek treatment (or encourage others to seek treatment) for mental health issues. High percentages of individuals in the 12-county EOCCO region self-report depression or other mental health symptoms; however, they regularly fail to seek the appropriate care.
For more information, contact program coordinator Alanna Chamulak via email or call her at (541) 219-2397.