Poll says DeKalb County residents want more support to address mental health needs

DeKALB About one in four respondents to a survey commissioned by the DeKalb Community Mental Health Board said they didn’t know about local mental health services.

Among those respondents, the data show that 30.6% are not currently receiving mental health services.

Findings from the survey were the focus of a town hall meeting this week held at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb hosted by DeKalb County officials focused on community mental health.

Quiana Jones, co-chair of the DeKalb County Community Mental Health Collaborative for Equity and Belonging Behavioral Health Committee, said in an ideal world, everyone would be aware of community mental health services and there would be no mental illness to report. deal with .

We still have work to do, Jones said. The only way to get that job done is if everyone is involved.

The majority of survey respondents indicated that they would prefer to receive support from a mental health professional in their provider’s office.

Certain respondents, such as those who identify as LGBTQ, said they would benefit from seeking mental health support in alternative formats, such as virtually at home with a mental health professional.

Many of those who identify as Black said they would prefer to meet at their church with a pastor, spiritual counselor, or church member.

Everyone says it’s the #1 problem in our community, but no one wants to talk about it. We need to get people to understand what is and what is not a mental health crisis. We have to have help all the way.

Deanna Cada

About 65% of black respondents indicated that they would prefer to meet with a mental health professional who is racially similar to them.

At the same time, 14% of black respondents said they were more likely to believe a mental health professional did not understand or relate to their problem, according to the survey results.

DeKalb resident Lisa King said she thinks many young people in crisis could benefit from providers who are able to connect with their clients on a cultural level. But she said she believes it’s unfortunate that there aren’t more mental health professionals who take cultural competency into account.

I think the salary is a big thing, King said. I think that’s the point. But I think if you’re going to be in it, be in it to win. There are enough people who need support and need help and assistance.

I also think that we as professionals have to work in sometimes informal situations. That’s why we have to work in the church. We have to work in schools. Sometimes it throws us out of those parameters and those boxes that all the credentials tell us, Hey, you have to get this many hours.

Among those who completed the survey, some expressed desires were for more support or peer groups, the development of an intensive outpatient treatment center and partial hospitalization programs in DeKalb County.

Community calls for more mental health support come amid a national shortage of therapists and a mental health emergency among young people.

Sabrina Nicholson, director of Northwestern Medicine’s Ben Gordon Center Behavioral Health Services, said Northwestern Medicine wants to make a dent in areas that need additional youth mental health resources.

“We were also very excited about opening an intensive adolescent outpatient program, hopefully in early December,” Nicholson said.

That program will serve teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17.

Nicholson said it won’t be long before Northwestern Medicine plans to open a partial hospitalization program for adolescents.

Which could [provide] five days a week to care for a child in need, she said. We accept multiple types of payers for that program as well. That’s right [were] excited to bring it to the community with everything going on.

Deanna Cada, executive director of the DeKalb County Community Mental Health Board, said there is a problem with behavioral health recruitment and that if things are going to improve, it has to start from within.

It is a very difficult field, Cada said. It doesn’t pay much, and you’ll end up with a lot of student loans. As we try to recruit people, we need to have a better story.

Research has identified cost, insurance and long wait times as barriers that prevent some people from seeking professional mental health treatment.

Quianna Jones speaks at the Nov. 6, 2023, DeKalb County Mental Health Community Town Hall meeting held at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in DeKalb.

Hispanic and Latino respondents were among those most likely to want mental health services available in their preferred language only to believe it was not an option.

But for an older population that may not be tech-savvy, telehealth may present a difficult task for some people to connect with a mental health professional.

It doesn’t have to be this way, said Dori Delacruz, owner of local counseling center Walk and Talk and a board member of the DeKalb County Mental Health Collaborative for Equity and Belonging to the Behavioral Health Committee.

I don’t think many people use them [employee assistance program], Delacruz said. Many times, if they have private insurance, they usually start with five to eight sessions depending on your EAP. You can always start there. Then, if you like that therapist and they accept your insurance there, then you can see that person through your EAP.

Cada said she was pleased to see how much of the community turned out for the mental health town hall.

“Everybody says it’s the No. 1 problem in our community, but nobody wants to talk about it,” Cada said. We need to get people to understand what is and what is not a mental health crisis. We have to have help all the way.

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