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Healthfinders to tackle frontier of mental health in new year

Faribault Daily News - 12/20/2017

In their effort to provide a comprehensive access point to health services for Rice County families, officials at Healthfinders Collaborative discovered a new frontier of mental health.

Since 2005, Healthfinders has assisted marginalized families by helping them find primary health care, medication assistance, advocacy, wellness programming and, now, the group has set their sights on providing direct access to mental health care.

"We recognize that we have not had as robust an ability to take care of patients with mental health challenges as we have with physical health challenges," said HealthRise Project Lead Natalie Marfleet. "So, this is our next frontier."

According to the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics, 173,000 Minnesota adults, or 4.2 percent, had serious thoughts of suicide within the year prior to being surveyed. Additionally, 185,000 adults, or 4.5 percent, had a serious mental illness.

Currently, officials at Healthfinders, which has clinics in Faribault and Northfield, are working with staff and patients to assess how best to enter the mental health arena to help their patients.

The answers to those questions aren't yet clear as Healthfinders is currently in the "exploratory stage" of the process, but come January, Healthfinders will work with a Carleton College Sociology and Anthropology class to work with Healthfinders staff and mental health care providers to determine what the collaborative can do for its patients.

Important to Marfleet, however, is making sure the organization doesn't step on toes in the process.

"There are a lot of organizations out there that support mental health," she said. "We don't want to compete with or undermine other area organizations."

Strategic thinking

According to Marfleet, the addition of mental health to Healthfinders' repertoire has been a "strategic priority" for the collaborative for this year.

Now that the effort is underway, the group is "looking to evaluate our opportunities," said Marfleet.

"We are looking at where we should focus and how to deliver these services in house by the end of March," she said of the program's expected timetable. "Then, we will have training and have some resources in place no later than June."

Whether it's an in-house psychiatrist or utilizing other entities, Healthfinders wants its care coordinators, like Maritza Navarro, to have ample resources for their patients.

"We've noticed the need and have some collaborations and partnerships already in the community, so we make referrals," Navarro said. "But, the need is pretty high."

Navarro noted that, for some, the biggest hurdle in mental health is "about understanding the need for seeing someone for help."

She pointed specifically to the local Hispanic community, where sentiments toward mental health are particularly negative, she says.

"In the Hispanic community, seeing a psychiatrist or a counselor seems like it's for crazy people, but we want to dismantle that stigma and get more information in the community," Navarro said. "We all need someone to talk to and to listen to us and to guide us and that's what a counselor does. That's where we are. We've identified that need and now we determine how to move forward from here."

Volunteers

In the new year, Healthfinders will begin its search for mental health volunteers.

The collaborative is always seeking volunteer help from "people who are passionate about helping and seeing the greater need," according to Navarro.

Marfleet noted that the collaborative is accepting applications for volunteers, which can be done at the Healthfinders website, even if volunteer help isn't needed quite yet.

 
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