Grand County has no shortage of health-care professionals, educators and community leaders who are working to address substance abuse problems among students, although they don’t necessarily work under the same roof.
To bring those different agencies and individuals closer together, Four Corners Community Behavioral Health and Moab Regional Hospital are spearheading a new initiative that would tackle the issue at the community level.
The two partners are working to line up local and state funding for a new part-time community care coordinator, who could promote greater collaboration between entities like Moab Regional Hospital, the BEACON Afterschool Program and the Southeastern Utah District Health Department.
“Another way to think of it is a little like the conductor of an orchestra,” Four Corners Community Behavioral Health Prevention Specialist Tiffany Van Sickle told the Moab City Council on Tuesday, May 10. “We have so many programs and various entities throughout the community … But having a combined coalition of those members to help be the conductor of the orchestra that keeps everybody on the same page, working toward a consistent goal, is really the job of the coalition.”
While the City of Moab hasn’t budgeted any funding to help underwrite the position, Mayor Dave Sakrison said he’s on board with the idea.
“This is something that needs to happen,” he said.
The mayor said he hopes the coordinator and the related “Communities That Care” initiative can also focus on issues related to intergenerational poverty in the community.
“I think this all ties in,” he said.
According to Moab Regional Hospital CEO Jen Sadoff, the state is willing to kick in $10,000 to help fund the position; Sakrison suspects that the partners may be able to line up more money from the state if they reach out to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox when he comes to town next month.
“I think there would probably be some state money available for that initiative,” he said.
Grand County School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Crane said that district officials have been working with Van Sickle for the past two months or so, and are eager to do what they can to help the initiative get off the ground.
“We’re very supportive of it, and we’re willing to provide a lot of in-kind (assistance) and expertise,” he said.
The school district already has its own programs to address substance abuse and related issues, but Crane said he sees the value in a communitywide effort.
“We want to bring that together in a holistic manner,” he said.
The push for a more coordinated approach toward substance abuse problems and related issues comes in the wake of the most recent Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Survey.
According to the survey, 25 percent of Grand County School District students perceive that community laws and norms are favorable toward drug use. The same percentage believe the community supports the early initiation of drug use, while 23 percent have favorable attitudes toward drug use, according to Sadoff.
The latest survey findings jibe with the hospital’s previous community needs assessment, which found that more than two-thirds of respondents identified alcohol and substance abuse disorder as the area’s top community health concern.
Sadoff said that Van Sickle’s recent talk about the survey offered a disturbing look at the latest data.
“The presentation was very alarming in terms of some of the trends that we’re seeing with kids in our area,” she said.
At the same time, though, Sadoff said it was inspiring, because it offered examples of other communities in Utah that have made headway on the issue – particularly Tooele, where the demographics are not unlike Moab’s.
“They used their alarming survey data and they mobilized as a community to put the structure in place, and they changed what their data looked like for the better,” she said.
Hospital officials are putting programs into place to address the problems, but – like Crane – Sadoff said they want to work with others to tackle them at the community level.
Sadoff noted that she has been involved with the Moab Community Action Coalition for more than 10 years. She said she believes that group has made progress in that time, yet noted that the group’s dedicated volunteers all have busy schedules that limit their effectiveness.
“It’s made it hard for any one person to really drive that progress forward,” she said.
Sadoff said the latest survey results show that the community has made some progress. Still, Grand County is trending up in the areas of mental health and suicide risk, and she called the high percentage of favorable attitudes toward drug use a “huge risk factor.”
Van Sickle said that prevention efforts won’t pay off overnight, but she said that once the initiative is in place, the coordinator can mobilize the community to act on the concerns that have been identified.
“It’s very difficult to be efficient and create effective change when you don’t have that infrastructure to make it possible,” she said. “They’re kind of the whip.”
Four Corners Community Behavioral Health and Moab Regional Hospital leading new initiative
We have so many programs and various entities throughout the community … But having a combined coalition of those members to help be the conductor of the orchestra that keeps everybody on the same page, working toward a consistent goal, is really the job of the coalition.