|Feds fund mental health first aid program|
Three North Dakota health organizations have teamed to receive a $375,000 federal grant to establish a mental health first aid program in North Dakota.
The Tribal Health Program of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Ft. Yates partnered with the Center for Rural Health ath the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and West River Health Services in Hettinger to apply for the competitive grant from the federal Office of Rural Health Policy. The grant program is designed to encourage the development of new and innovative health care delivery systems in rural communities that lack essential health care services.
The mental health first aid program developed through this grant over the next three years will be the first of its kind in the nation. Similar to basic first aid courses that many Americans take to provide immediate help to physical injuries, mental health first aid helps people learn how to provide initial support to those showing signs of mental health problems or in a mental health crisis until appropriate professional treatment is received.
Ninety-five percent of North Dakota is designated as a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area. This federal designation means that there are an inadequate number of mental health providers relative to both the population and the need for services.
“Mental health resources are scarce in rural, frontier, and tribal areas,” said West River Health Services Chief Nurse Executive Melana Howe. “Implementing an innovative program and providing training at the grassroots level helps people better understand mental health issues and provides a supportive environment to address mental health problems.”
The program will be offered in the rural areas of southwest North Dakota and the Standing Rock reservation and will serve as a model for possible use in other North Dakota rural areas and throughout the country.
“We have a high rate of suicide on our reservations,” said Emmett White Temple, Jr., director of Standing Rock Tribal Health. “This program will help our people better understand mental health issues and the warning signs of suicide so we can provide community support to people struggling with this problem.”
“This program is very successful in rural Australia, where it was developed,” said Dr. Jacque Gray, a psychologist who will head the project for the Center for Rural Health. “Although those trained won’t be therapists, they will learn how to serve as a supportive link until the person can see a professional.”
“Lack of access to mental health services across rural North Dakota is one of the most common concerns we hear from rural communities,” said Dr. Mary Wakefield, director of the Center for Rural Health. “There needs to be a variety of solutions to this real and serious challenge, and giving communities fundamental skills to provide initial mental health support is a good place to start.”
For more related information, visit the Center for Rural Health’s Web site at: http://medicine.nodak.edu/crh .
-- Amanda Scurry, public information specialist, SMHS, firstname.lastname@example.org, 701-777-0871