Updated: Dec 3, 2021
By Ferrell Foster
Data at WacoRoundTable.org indicate 16.6% of Waco adults (age 18 and older) in 2017 had experienced poor mental health for 14 days or more in the past month. It’s even worse now as we continue to cope with the effects of a global pandemic that gets very personal very quickly.
Lots of people in town are facing mental health and substance abuse issues right now, and five of our local organizations are collecting data to better understand the specific needs. Details of the study will not be known for about a year, but the depth of the need is already being revealed in weekly Zoom calls of study organizers.
As I listen to the weekly reports, I am taken aback by how hard our medical professionals are working and trying to respond to the need. COVID-19 has made more difficult already challenging situations.
In tough times, people often turn to “self medicating” through alcohol and drugs. That may help a person cope for a moment, but it leads to more devastating long-term challenges.
But substance abuse issues are only part of the situation. Many people are dealing with mental health issues rooted in the varied disorders.
The weekly Zoom calls help us to get a sense of the situation, but it is essential that we understand the details, and that will happen as this study progresses.
The study of behavioral health needs is called the Continuity of Care Team Project, and it is funded by the Episcopal Health Foundation. Data collection began in May this year and will include through the end of 2021.
The Behavioral Health Leadership Team, a Prosper Waco working group led by Tom Thomas and Tom Stanton, planned and initiated the study, which will help community leaders develop appropriate responses to behavioral health needs.
Participating organizations include Ascension Providence, Ascension DePaul Center, Baylor Scott & White-Hillcrest, Cenikor, and Heart of Texas Region MHMR. Each entity asks discharging clients if they would like to participate in the study. Clients who agree to participate are asked to assess the care just received using a form agreed to by all five partners.
The assessment data then goes to the Social Work Department at Tarleton State University in Waco. Thirty days after discharge, each client receives a follow-up survey to see how they are doing. They will receive another call, with the same survey, 180 days after their discharge.
After Tarleton’s Social Work Department, led by Dr. Darla Beaty, collects all of the data, it will share the raw data with Prosper Waco for its research team to analyze the information.
We will keep you informed as the study continues and look forward to the day when we can do the final data analysis.
Ferrell Foster is Prosper Waco’s senior content specialist for care and communication.