If you had to rank those areas that our community is having the most challenges with, almost everyone would recognize that access to mental health care is among the first few items.
Public awareness of mental health issues is at an all-time high. At the same time, stressors that come with modern life are making those issues more acute.
“I think we are much more aware of mental health issues and addiction issues, or things we’re hearing more about, like youth suicide,” says Liz Atwell, the executive director of Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky & Southwest Ohio. “These issues have really come to the forefront and society can’t ignore them. We’ve got to figure out ways to treat a person holistically.”
Addressing those pressing needs for those most vulnerable in our community is the goal of the most recent round of Safety Net Grants awarded by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. The 2019 distribution from the program is sharing $752,600 in funds with 20 nonprofit organizations across Greater Cincinnati.
Included in that number are awards to four agencies that serve Northern Kentucky -- $19,000 for Lloyd Memorial High School’s Safety Net program in the Erlanger Elsmere School District; $50,000 for Holly Hill Child & Family Solutions Behavioral Health Services Outreach program; $25,000 for Emergency Assistance Conference Support for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s Council of Northern Kentucky; and $50,000 for Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky & Southwest Ohio’s Pro Bono Counseling program.
Mental Health America serves as a front-line resource for getting those with mental health difficulties onto a path where they can receive appropriate care. Its Pro Bono Counseling component is designed to deal with individuals or families who need help with emerging problems, that have not yet reached a life-threatening crisis level requiring emergency intervention.
“We want to be able to talk with people and help them navigate the care they are looking for, and not just navigate it, but to really feel supported while they are going through it,” Atwell says.
To that end, Mental Health America frequently gets certified peer support specialists involved in helping those looking for care. These specialists are people who have benefited from mental health or addiction programming and have experienced further training so they can share their knowledge and experiences with others facing similar challenges.
It’s proven to be an effective support tool, both in treatment and also in improving knowledge of resources that are available.
State-sanctioned mental health care in NKY is different from that in Ohio, where each county has its own mental health board for deciding how care funding should be administered. Kentucky has a state-supported system that provides care at centers across eight NKY counties through NorthKey Community Care, which is another major resource in what Mental Health America is able to do on the south side of the river.
“We have an agreement with NorthKey where we hire certified peer support specialists, and then the actual work sites they go to are the actual NorthKey sites, and they serve as part of the treatment teams with NorthKey,” Atwell says.
Taking it one patient and one family at a time, the amount of help that will be spread across Northern Kentucky by the Safety Net grant from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to Mental Health America is significant. The estimate is that 300 individuals will benefit over the next year from this pro bono option.
“The system can be difficult to figure out,” Atwell says. “A family may be struggling financially, and they may or may not have insurance. We really try and provide a safety net, so that there is somewhere to go for services when people need them, and we try to be that open door that is welcoming and ready to help.”
In addition to the four grant recipients already mentioned, here are the other 16 agencies that received a 2019 Safety Net grant from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation:
- BLOC Ministries, Inc.: $43,000 for Second Chance Live and Work Program
- Central Clinic Behavioral Health: $30,600 for Child & Family Treatment Center: Eradicating Barriers to Trauma-Informed Behavioral Health Treatment
- Childhood Food Solutions: $50,000 for Food Support for Children and Families in Four Low-Income Cincinnati Zip Codes during July 2019
- Children’s Hunger Alliance: $25,000 for After School Meals for Underserved Children in Cincinnati
- CityLink Center: $50,000 for Shoring Foundations for Future Success
- Community Matters: $30,000 for Food and Housing Support for Families in the Lower Price Hill Neighborhood
- Dearborn County Clearinghouse for Emergency Aid: $20,000 for Right-2-U Resources, Mobile Pantry
- Family Nurturing Center: $25,000 for Child Abuse Treatment Services
- Freestore Foodbank: $50,000 for School Pantry: Bringing Wholesome Food to Children and Their Families
- Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati: $50,000 for Kinship Care
- Milford Miami Ministry: $15,000 for Safety Net Programs for Food Insecure and At-Risk Families
- Over-the-Rhine Community Housing: $50,000 for Preserving Permanent Supportive Housing
- Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses: $50,000 for Findlay Street Neighborhood House
- Tender Mercies, Inc.: $50,000 for Making Independence Possible Through Affordable Housing and Nutrition
- Valley Interfaith Community Resource Center: $35,000 for Valley Interfaith Safety Net Proposal
- Women’s Crisis Center: $35,000 for Safe Shelter