Mental health task force formed locally to improve services

ESCANABA — A recently-established task force created with the aim of improving mental health services and support in the area has already shown signs of being successful, according to Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District Superintendent Doug Leisenring. Leisenring organized the task force and will be helping to facilitate its meetings.

In its first meeting — which took place last month — the group was known as the “Mental Health Task Force.” However, this name could change in the near future to better reflect the group’s evolving mission.

“It’s kind of becoming a community task (force) addressing multiple issues,” Leisenring said.

The task force’s first meeting took place over the days of Monday, Nov. 26, and Tuesday, Nov. 27. According to Leisenring, about 65 people attended each day of the meeting; among these people were local educators, members of law enforcement and people involved with the area’s medical community, Pathways Mental Health, the Department of Health and Human Services and local civic groups.

“It was a wide variety of members of our community,” he said.

In the meeting’s first day, community consultant Jodi Pfarr spoke with task force participants.

“We identified the current state of our community — the strengths and all the weaknesses,” Leisenring said. Pfarr also talked with participants about their goals for the community’s future.

Later that day, participants broke up into five groups and each group identified a goal they wanted the task force to work towards. Leisenring said these goals included lowering the number of newborn babies subjected to toxic substances in the community, improving the mental health services available in the area, educating the staff members of local schools on how to handle trauma, improving the coordination of services and information on the services available locally and getting students more engaged with their community.

In the meeting’s second day, participants worked together to create plans for the realization of these goals.

“Each one of those groups created a 90-day action plan … to start making those things a reality,” Leisenring said. Participants also received assignments based on the plans.

According to Leisenring, the task force will meet regularly going forward.

“We will meet every 90 days to report on the progress of our plans and then work together to update our plans for the next 90 days,” he said.

Based on the feedback he has heard from participants, Leisenring said the task force has already started to have a positive impact.

The task force’s next meeting is Feb. 26, 2019 at 9 a.m. at Bay College.