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A mental and behavioral health committee is being revived in Campbell County


A mental and behavioral health committee tasked with addressing Campbell County’s needs is being revived after it was disbanded at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes representatives from both county and city government, the hospital, local law enforcement, the county commission, and Gillette College, in addition to local political leaders, among others.

The committee will begin its work in January after a time and date is coordinated to accommodate the different board meeting times. The funding sources for it are still being worked out but will likely come from a combination of city and county funds in addition to ones obtained via grants and possibly the state as well.

The search for solutions to mental and behavioral health needs isn’t new and comes as Campbell County’s suicide is the highest that’s been recorded in a single year. So far this year, there have been 20 suicides in 2022, breaking the previous record of 15, according to statistics from Campbell County Prevention shared with Wyoming Public Media.

Other initiatives, such as a window sticker campaign that provides suicide prevention resources, was rolled out this summer. The school district has also put a focus on mental health for students, which has had an effect in reducing student suicide rates overall. However, the issue persists.

A shortage of mental health professionals has proven to be a continual problem as the demand for these services increases.

“There's a shortage of psychologists, there's a shortage of counselors,” said Alan Stuber, chair of the Campbell County Health (CCH) Board of Trustees. “If our community gained the 10 counselors, we still wouldn't have enough counselors in our community, so it doesn't matter whether they're [offering services via] private practice or whether it's through the hospital, there's a shortage of psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors, and trying to find ways of getting those individuals here in our community would definitely be beneficial.”

Its revival was discussed at a recent hospital board meeting, with discussions taking place between board trustees and CCH’s Behavioral Health Services department. Community input will also be part of the equation as the committee seeks public comment about what’s needed to address these issues. Campbell County Prevention, a suicide and addiction treatment organization and Campbell County School District #1 will also be part of the conversation.

The committee disbanded in 2020 as it was concerned about meeting during the pandemic. A COVID committee was also formed in an attempt to respond to the virus, but that group wasn’t as focused on behavioral and mental health.

“The whole point of getting this up and going again is to just get more of a collaborative effort involving not just the community leaders, but the community itself,” Stuber said. “Back when we had this, the committee, I think it was mid-to-late 2018, we did have a few meetings, and it was mainly just community leaders at that time.”

The committee’s creation and efforts were brought about after officers with the Gillette Police Department and the Campbell County Sheriff’s Department received training in community intervention teams (CIT), which is provided to law enforcement personnel, mental health and addiction specialists, and even to those with mental illness and their families, to better respond to calls involving those with mental health issues.

“There [were] many entities involved [in reviving the committee], whether it was members from the community who have had previous dealings with mental health, through family members that have committed suicide, or family that has been involved [and held under an involuntary hold, known as] title 25,” Stuber said. “The hospital had people come and doing presentations, it was a full 40 hours, but that kind of just sparked me into [thinking] this can definitely be more of a community effort.”

One of the things the committee is set to focus on, in addition to the weaknesses, are the strengths and opportunities, such as those for grants, that are currently present in the community and to build off those before moving on.

“It's awesome to see that everyone's wanting to work together towards the same goal,” he said. “That's kind of the reason for jumping on it right now is everyone has that hunger for it, and when it's fresh on everyone's mind and everyone's thinking about it and there needs to be improvements is the time to take advantage of that to move forward.”

If you or someone you know is considering or having suicidal thoughts, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also dial 988 24/7 or text “WYO” to 741-741. Local mental health and substance abuse services are offered in communities statewide.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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