Teaming up to tackle mental health in Seneca County

Published: Jun. 22, 2023 at 11:41 PM EDT
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TIFFIN, Ohio (WTVG) - A shortage of youth-serving Behavioral Health Professionals in Ohio and nationwide has resulted in prolonged waiting lists for mental health and substance use treatment services, impacting parents seeking assistance for their children. Additionally, demand for behavioral health services for youth has steadily increased over the last three years.

To address this pressing issue locally, Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services and Seneca County Job and Family Services have forged a collaborative effort.

Consortium members include Seneca Department of Job and Family Services, Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services, Lutheran Social Services, Family Counseling Services, Tiffin City Schools, Fostoria City Schools, Seneca Juvenile Court, Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Wyandot Counties, Family and Children First Council, Harbor/Ohio Rise, SAFY, Cornerstone Counseling and Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth. Members have begun actively working together to fill the identified gaps in youth behavioral health services within Seneca County.

Recognizing the importance of comprehensive support for families, Director Kathy Oliver of Seneca County Job and Family Services highlighted the need for parenting classes and other services.

“Many of the families we work with could benefit from parenting classes and in-home services to strengthen their families,” Oliver said.

Consortium members are actively exploring ways to address this unmet need in the community.

Group programming has also proven to be an effective approach in providing mental health and substance use services to children. Michelle Clinger, Ph.D., LPCC, Licensed Psychologist and Clinical Director of Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services, explained the benefits of group settings for children and adolescents.

“Groups where children and adolescents can learn coping, self-control and social skills, while receiving helpful input from their peers, can be very beneficial,” Clinger said, while also emphasizing the importance of dividing youth into age-appropriate groups to accommodate their developmental differences.

Group services are also a solution to addressing the behavioral health workforce shortages. More children can be served, effectively, in group sessions versus individual sessions.

Through their collective efforts, the Consortium has successfully identified the primary groups necessary to address the majority of youth behavioral health needs in the community. Collaborative endeavors are currently underway to assign facilitators from the participating agencies to each group. Once all groups are adequately staffed, comprehensive information will be disseminated throughout the community.

Mindy Strup, Project Manager at Seneca County Job and Family Services, encouraged parents to seek assistance without shame or blame, emphasizing the significance of transparency and accessing available resources for the well-being of their families. Strup said that mental health concerns and addiction can affect anyone.

“We have wonderful organizations and agencies in Seneca County that are committed to working together to support families right where they are, no matter who they are or what type of challenges they are facing,” Strup said.

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