Earlier this year, members of the Sheridan community gathered to discuss mental health. As part of the Center for a Vital Community’s study circles, engaged citizens spent five weeks discussing the issues surrounding mental health and potential solutions to address those concerns.
At the end of the five weeks, all of the groups gathered and created an action plan. Committees formed to pursue those action items and many of those are still working today.
Among the recommendations that came from the process was the need to establish a crisis stabilization center — a notion considered by some to be a lofty goal. This type of facility, as Sheridan Memorial Hospital CEO Mike McCafferty recently noted, would serve as a “front door” to serve urgent psychiatric and behavioral health patients, providing areas for assessment, crisis stabilization and inpatient behavioral health beds.
SMH’s recent decision to pursue funding for such a facility bodes well for Sheridan.
Wyoming has long struggled to meet the mental health needs of its residents. For Sheridan, the closest inpatient behavioral health care facility is in Gillette, creating logistical, practical and care-related challenges for the hospital, which serves about 150 people per year through its emergency room on Title 25 — or involuntary — holds.
A crisis stabilization center, such as the one being discussed, would go a long way in easing the burden on SMH emergency room staff while increasing the level of care for people in mental health crises.
The SMH board voted this week to support efforts in seeking American Rescue Plan Act funds to complete the project, which is estimated to cost $15 million.
As the state and the county put more and more resources of time and capital into addressing Wyoming’s mental health challenges, the community must also step in to show support.
If dollars are needed to match the ARPA funding, Sheridan County residents should be prepared to aid in that cause.
If letters of support or phone calls to persuade are necessary to secure the funds to accomplish this community need, citizens should ready to make their voices heard.
And, if ARPA funds fail to come through for the project, Sheridan must find another way to see the project through to completion.
All know Wyoming routinely has one of the highest suicide rates in the U.S. Yet stigma and fear still surround conversations around mental health. The work to combat those misperceptions will take time — something many community members cannot spare. While that good work continues, Sheridan area residents must band together to make our community stronger, and the crisis stabilization center — and all of the potential partnerships it could entail — moves the state and our neighbors closer to that goal.