Ranking as one of the country's fastest growing counties, Rutherford County faces new challenges in meeting the demand for mental health care. The United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties is leading an effort to fortify county well-being and improve mental health services. Overall health and wellness rest on good mental health, which allows all of us to participate in life and be productive members of society.
"The United Way has a unique opportunity to lead this effort to ensure that we improve county prosperity by developing available mental health services," said Meagan Flippin, president and CEO. "Partnering with others to identify issues and develop solutions is the core of United Way's impact model."
Flippin references the launch today of the Mental Health Action Initiative (MHAI), a year-long effort, that will identify proven solutions to make mental health services more available in Rutherford County. To date, this initiative brings to the table an array of organizations in the county, including Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, TrustPoint Hospital, Murfreesboro City Schools, Rutherford County Schools, local law enforcement, MTSU, Rutherford County Government and others.
MHAI will consider such proven solutions as prevention, early detection, referral processes among providers, integrated models of care that blend medical care and mental health services, and promoting the central role that mental health has in overall wellness.
The community growth rate strains the existing system of services. Recent county-wide health assessments for Rutherford County revealed an increasing demand for mental health services despite limited supply.
In 2016, the Rutherford County Health Assessment conducted a qualitative survey of 28 stakeholders in the county and found that a majority of respondents identified mental and emotional health as the top health care concern. Top causes of illness and death were addiction/substance abuse and mental and emotional health.[i]
Over a thirty day period, County residents experienced 4.4 days of poor mental health up from 2.7 days from two years prior. Twenty percent of individuals 18 or older have had at least one mental health episode. Mental health providers are three and half times as scarce in Rutherford County as those in the nation's ten best counties, providing care at a provider to client ratio of 1358:1 compared to 386:1.[ii]
Last July, the United Way and Domestic Violence Program hosted an initial planning session to assess the challenges that organizations are facing in connecting individuals to mental health care. Seventeen organizations in Rutherford County participated; six of the participating organizations represented some of the largest providers of mental health services in the county. The remaining eleven organization included the school districts, housing authority, local hospital and multiple local nonprofit organizations providing services to the homeless, survivors of domestic violence, and afterschool programming to underserved children.
Participants noted that current services are unable to meet demand especially for children and youth, parents and seniors as well as other populations. While services exist, participants acknowledged that it is difficult to move from one form of care to another to support well-being. Participants also noted the opportunity to promote mental health as central to overall well-being.
United Way has engaged Spring Consulting, LLC to facilitate the Mental Health Action Initiative. Spring Consulting (www.spring.team) located in Murfreesboro, serves as a resource to organizations and communities, working to fulfill their potential by addressing today's challenging issues.