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Women United Lunch & Learn

Women United kicked off the Mary Lopez Lunch and Learn Series on mental health August 16th with a powerful panel of community leaders focused on improving the mental health of our youth.

  • Andrew Rikli Superintendent, Papillion La Vista Community Schools
  • Megan Connelly Vice President of Community Pediatrics & Child Health, Children’s Hospital and Medical Center
  • Sarah Miller Chief of Medical Services, OneWorld Community Health Centers SVP Community Impact and Analytics

While COVID has exacerbated challenges among adults, children are also facing increased exposure to family hardship and chronic stress that have both lingering and long-term impacts. With disruptions to their home, school and other environments, youth are showing increased signs of anxiety, isolation, bullying, and depression. Locally, providers are seeing younger patients and more extreme cases. And emergency room visits for mental health among adolescents overall have increased 30% — driving pediatric leaders to declare a national crisis. While emergency visits for mental health are problematic from a care coordination perspective, the increase reflects conditions in a variety of settings and serves as a call to action.

Typically, youth with mental health needs have two primary options – 1) calling an established outpatient clinic and making an appointment, or 2) going to an emergency department. Our community is working to change that, through intentional partnerships and deploying resources where they are needed most. Papillion La Vista Community Schools have increased the number and types of specialists available, deploying these resources to the schools as part of a specific strategic goal focused on mental health. Resources for elementary and middle-school are particularly critical, with observations of behavior change and increased violence among these youth.  Sarah Miller further stressed the importance of mobile or in-school services to connect with students – provided by One World and others. Through ARPA funds, and strong collaborations, Megan Connelly shared how Children’s Hospital is working with CHI to add more urgent care spaces focused on youth. Safe spaces help reduce the stigma associated with seeking help. And while mental health awareness has increased, providers still face some generational challenges in convincing parents to acknowledge the mental health needs of their youth.

The panelists applauded Women United for their commitment to mental health and growing Mental Health First Aid in particular. “If you’re wondering if you’ve put your money in the right place, you have,” Dr. Rikli said. Mental Health First Aid Training helps with early intervention by teaching people to provide emotional support and practical help. Women United will support the expansion of this training through a partnership with Region 6 that will multiply the number of trainers and classes available. A special session for Women United is scheduled for October 26th. To sign up, or for more information about this Women United initiative, click here.