Over the past year, the Mercer County Mental Health Action Program (MHAP) has provided vital services for students and families in Mercer and Sherrard County schools.
The MHAP team—director Krissy Dixon, RN, and two highly-skilled full-time mental health case managers who help connect students with the support they need—exists thanks in part to the Looser-Flake Charitable Foundation, who made a three-year, $156,000 grant to MHAP last year.
“Thanks to Looser-Flake, what we have now works better than ever,” Dixon said in a Tuesday statement about the MHAP workforce helping to close the gap in the region’s mental health professional shortage. “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.”
Administered by the Quad Cities Community Foundation and dedicated to supporting charitable causes in Mercer County, the Looser-Flake Charitable Foundation was established by the heirs of Dorothy Looser-Flake and Roberta Looser, sisters who were born and raised on a family farm near New Boston, Ill. Consistent with Mercer County’s Better Together Action Plan, one of the foundation’s key priorities is local education. , with $80,000 Awarded to Sherrard and Mercer County Schools for Vocational Education at the beginning of this year.
“Looser-Flake Charitable Foundation has a strong vision to support students in Mercer County,” said Kelly Thompson, vice president of grants and community initiatives for the Community Foundation. “We are proud to partner with an organization that works together with its community to understand its needs and then generously provides resources to make progress possible.”
The need for services grows
According to Dixon, the need for mental health services in county schools is stronger than ever. Established in 2018, MHAP recorded its highest number of cases during the 2021-2022 school year. The program provided individualized case management to 142 clients, an increase of 25 percent over the prior year; of those, 82 were students, an increase of 22 percent.
While the return to in-person learning has proven challenging for students’ mental and emotional well-being, Dixon cites an additional factor in the growing demand for MHAP services: stigma may be easing.
“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.”
“Thanks to MHAP’s assistance, many of my appointments are proactive and address issues before a negative reaction or consequence occurs,” said Donna Boswell, Mercer County High School counselor. “Addressing these issues at an early stage allows students to live more productive and enjoyable lives.”
MHAP has also worked to reach more families through case management, a critical step in addressing the full range of barriers that can prevent students from getting the mental health care they need, from transportation and insurance to food insecurity. and housing instability.
Last year, the program provided family case management for 34 percent of its clients, helping them connect with community resources. “With our comprehensive workforce, we can really see the whole picture of the person,” Dixon said.
As part of the MHAP, the Signs of Suicide Prevention Program helps raise awareness and identify students at risk. At Mercer County Middle School and High School last year, the program reached out and tested 279 students, among whom 57 were flagged for further risk assessment.
Of those, 24 were recommended for outpatient mental health services and 16 were referred for mental health case management with MHAP. “We’ve seen that, on average, about 20 percent of the students flagged by this assessment were not 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.”
In her role with MHAP, Dixon also facilitates the Mercer County Mental Health Consortium, which brings together representatives from 24 county agencies. “Working together, we can identify needs across the spectrum of mental health in the county, share valuable information, and even collaboratively apply for grants,” Dixon said.
“We are very grateful for the Looser-Flake Charitable Foundation,” he added. “Your support has given us flexibility as we move toward steps that will help us sustain this work for the long term.”