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Douglas County, partner agencies launch behavioral health initiatives

Wednesday, February 26, 2020 - 1:48pm

Community leaders are working on implementing a number of new initiatives and programs in Douglas County to help prevent vaping, substance abuse, mental illness and suicide.

“We’re working to build an integrated system of care that moves from crisis and illness as a norm to recovery and prevention as a practice,” said Bob Tryanski, Director of Behavioral Health Projects for Douglas County. “Our focus is to prioritize prevention.”

Tryanski and leaders from DCCCA Inc. and Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health discussed prevention efforts with Douglas County Commissioners during a work session Jan. 22.

Tryanski said they’ve made significant progress on the following initiatives, which have been fully or partially funded through a quarter-cent sales tax that was approved by voters in November 2018:

1. Behavioral Health Summit

Douglas County’s first all-day Behavioral Health Summit was held in June 2019 in Lawrence and was attended by more than 200 people. There were a variety of sessions covering topics ranging from vaping and substance abuse to human trafficking and suicide. The second summit will be in September 2020.

2. myStrength

MyStrength, an online wellness tool, was launched in June 2019. It is available for free to Douglas County residents. So far, about 600 people have signed up to use myStrength, which offers a variety programs that can help with improving sleep, reducing stress, pregnancy and early parenting, moving beyond trauma, nicotine recovery and more.

Agencies that have been instrumental in the implementation of myStrength, include: Douglas County, Heartland Community Health Center, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and LMH Health. DCCCA has been offering myStrength to clients, staff and foster parents since 2014.

“We are going to work with the Douglas County Peer Fellow program to do more outreach into the community,” Tryanski said.

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3. Expanding WRAP

This school year, the WRAP (Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities) program became available in all four school districts in Douglas County with an expansion into the Baldwin and Perry-Lecompton schools. The WRAP program provides services such as brief psychotherapeutic interventions, individual or group counseling, skill-building in response to discipline referral, support service brokerage and crisis intervention.

“WRAP is a really effective tool in supporting students and their social and emotional needs in each of the school districts,” said Eudora School Superintendent Steve Splichal. “I just feel like this was an outstanding step for our students.”

4. Zero Suicide

Headquarters Counseling Center is leading the effort to implement Zero Suicide in Douglas County. Zero Suicide relies on a system-wide approach to improving outcomes and closing gaps rather than on the heroic efforts of individual health care providers.

Zero Suicide represents a commitment to patient safety and also to the safety and support of clinical staff. About 80 health care providers will attend a Zero Suicide Academy training in late April.

5. Engage Douglas County

DCCCA Inc. and Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health have been leading prevention efforts in Douglas County. They’ve formed a stakeholder group called “Engage Douglas County” that meets every other month. The group consists of law enforcement, school superintendents and community leaders.

“I’ve worked in prevention in this community for nearly 30 years and I am more excited about the potential to actually make a difference from the prevention side than I ever have been. It has to do with the group of people who have come together, the compelling vision that you (Douglas County Commission) have helped craft, and the partnerships that have been developed.” — CEO Lori Alvarado, of DCCCA

Alvarado said there are a couple of new programs that are being piloted in Douglas County: Handle With Care and Good Behavior Game.

The Handle With Care program is a collaboration between schools and local law enforcement. It helps law enforcement inform schools about students who may be dealing with trauma. If a law enforcement agent becomes engaged with a student during non-school hours, they communicate with the school. They don’t say what happened, but just notify the school that the student may need some extra support. The program is being piloted in the Baldwin School District.

The Good Behavior Game is a behavior intervention that teachers can use to manage their students behavior. The well-researched tool has demonstrated excellent outcomes across all grade levels. A training was held in January and 19 participants from Douglas County schools and agencies, such as the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence, attended.

Chrissy Mayer, Director of Prevention and Leadership at DCCCA, said the program is being piloted in Baldwin Elementary School. “They’re thrilled about the program and want to implement some things right away.”

Engage Douglas County will look to improve these programs and continue to work to expand them into other schools and agencies.

Earlier this year, DCCCA also held focus groups and interviews with students in Douglas County. Mayer said they often heard: “Adults don’t care. They are not listening. They’re not paying attention to what we’re doing.” Mayer said that was a constant theme across school districts and private schools. Additionally, students said marijuana and vaping were among their top concerns as well as suicide and mental health issues. Many students said they didn’t know how to help their peers.

To help with this work, DCCCA has formed Douglas County’s first Youth Prevention Board and the first meeting was Jan. 20. The goal is to have representatives from all four school districts in the county. “We know for a fact that as adults were pretty uncool and not really very impactful for teenagers, but teenagers themselves are impactful for each other,” Alvarado said. “Our goal is give the teenagers the skills that they can use to help one another.”

Media Contact

Karrey Britt, Communications Specialist