Mercer County, Sherrard students continue to reap mental health grant benefits

Reflecting on the growing mental health needs of the community, Mercer County Mental Health Action Program Director Krissy Dixon is grateful for the three-year, $156,000 grant from the Looser-Flake Charitable Foundation for the program on last year.

The grant, administered by the Quad Cities Community Foundation, is intended to support MHAP services provided to students and families in Sherrard schools and throughout the county. MHAP recorded its highest caseload in the 2021-2022 school year, providing individualized case management to 142 clients, an increase of 25 percent over the prior year. Of them, 82 were students.

“Thanks to Looser-Flake, what we have now works better than ever,” Dixon said in a press release. “Your support ensures that we can offer these services to our youth to address their social and emotional needs so they can do all they are capable of doing.”

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Donna Boswell, counselor at Mercer County High School, spoke about the benefit of this support for her students:

“Thanks to MHAP’s assistance, many of my appointments are proactive and address issues before a negative reaction or consequence occurs,” she said. “Addressing these issues at an early stage allows students to live more productive and enjoyable lives.”

Sherrard’s counselor, Stacey Blackwell, also sees the impact.

“This program has provided many of our students and families with resources and assistance when they needed it most,” he said, adding that his district looks forward to continuing its partnership with MHAP.

In addition, the “Signs of Suicide Prevention Program” helps identify students at risk and spread awareness. Last year, he tested 279 students at the Mercer County middle and high school; 57 were flagged for further evaluation. Of these, 24 were recommended for outpatient services and 16 were referred to the MHAP.

“We’ve seen, on average, about 20 percent of students flagged by this assessment that weren’t on anyone’s radar as struggling,” Dixon said. “I truly believe that in the long term, when all grades in Mercer and Sherrard County schools have received this programming, it will reduce the suicide statistics in our region.”

Aside from the return to in-person learning, Dixon cites another factor in the growing demand for MHAP services: decreased stigma.

“A lot of mental health information was released when COVID hit,” he said. “We’ve seen more self-referrals without an appointment, and that speaks to people’s comfort in reaching out and talking about mental health when they need help.”

MHAP has worked to reach more families through case management to address the full range of barriers to mental health care, such as transportation, insurance, or housing. Last year, 34 percent of clients used family case management.

A key Looser-Flake priority is local education; earlier this year, it awarded $80,000 to Sherrard and Mercer County schools for vocational education.

Adolescent mental health has become a topic of growing concern. Crisis episodes related to mental illness can be incredibly overwhelming, especially for young people. A mental health crisis can look different for everyone, and some may not experience warning signs of a crisis.

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