An organization that conducted a city-wide mental health assessment says Edmond needs to expand its capacity of counselors, therapists and other care providers to meet community needs.
While they say the findings are concerning, city officials recognized the Edmond’s service gap in August when they voted to spend $1 million to renovate a building on 15th Street and Kelly Avenue to be used as a community mental health center.
Edmond community leaders and stakeholders helped the Healthy Minds Policy Initiative — an Oklahoma-based mental and behavioral health policy think tank — create the final report and action plan, which found that 22 percent of Edmond residents are experiencing some type of mental health condition. Similarly, 10 percent of Edmond residents are experiencing a serious substance abuse disorder, said Zack Stoycoff, executive director of HMPI.
“Ten thousand [Edmond] residents are experiencing a substance use disorder or some kind of serious mental illness,” Stoycoff said during a short press conference Thursday morning on the University of Central Oklahoma campus. “These are major challenges that our communities and our systems are not set up to handle.”
While those numbers are in line with national averages, Edmond is not currently equipped to deal with these challenges, Stoycoff said, citing a lack of available local mental health providers.
“How accessible are mental health providers?” Stoycoff asked. “How many community residents, adults and children receive services, and where do they go? Do they have to go out of town to get these services? The answer is yes. They do.”
Stoycoff said a lack of local crisis response resources means many Edmond residents, particularly children, end up receiving care at the emergency room.
“We’ve got about 1,500 Edmond children who are experiencing a massive depressive disorder, things that potentially carry suicide risks,” Stoycoff said. “We’re seeing that in our schools, and we’re seeing that in our ER — children showing up at the ER because there’s no where else to go.”
In the executive summary of the action report (embedded below), HMPI listed three key findings from the assessment:
- Access to behavioral health services in Edmond has multiple barriers, including lack of availability of local service providers, cost for receiving services and transportation to Oklahoma City for more intensive services;
- Children and youth with behavioral health conditions are especially vulnerable to these barriers to access;
- Stigma is an impediment to recognizing and seeking care for behavioral health conditions.
Regarding stigma, Edmond Mayor Darrell Davis called upon city residents to break down negative social perceptions associated with mental health.
“Don’t be embarrassed that your city, your town, your friend, your parent, you, have some type of mental health issue,” Davis said. “Let’s continue to have those discussions to break down those social barriers that are out there. Let’s take down the walls. Let’s continue the communication that is necessary for this to happen.”
The City of Edmond allocated $175,000 in funding from American Rescue Plan Act to pay for HMPI’S city-wide mental health assessment. HMPI will deliver a presentation on the findings from the community behavioral health assessment at Monday’s Edmond City Council meeting.
NorthCare an ‘incredibly integral part’ of plan
The City Council voted in August to allocate $1 million in ARPA money to NorthCare, a community mental health center. The funds are being used to renovate a building located at 15th Street and Kelly Avenue, which NorthCare had already purchased.
The NorthCare facility will be an “incredibly integral part” of the action plan HMPI developed, Stoycoff said.
Edmond has various organizations providing mental health care to serve the Edmond community, such as the Green Shoe Foundation, which provides five-day outpatient retreats, and Arcadia Trails, which administers residential treatment, as well as outpatient and partial hospitalization programs.
Mental health resources:
However, as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC), NorthCare has the ability to provide a wide range of services, Stoycoff said. These services including crisis intervention services, treatment planning, targeted case management, family support and counseling services, among others.
“They provide a full spectrum of services, not just talk therapy, but multidisciplinary teams, mobile crisis response — things like that,” Stoycoff said.
Connie Schlittler, a licensed clinical social worker who serves as NorthCare’s vice president of growth, said the goal is to have the facility complete and opened by January 2023.
“It’s our mandate to serve Edmond. There’s really no other mental health center in the state that’s been set up to serve that community,” Schlittler said.
Schlittler said NorthCare’s “goal” is to help everyone who walks through their doors. NorthCare’s website states that they provide “services to individuals and families regardless of their ability to pay.”