people seated on table in room
While there are a large number of providers in the community, support for providers and access to acute care were identified as issues in Behavioral Health Needs Assessment. Photo: Jason Goodman

JACKSON, Wyo. — A high-level rundown of the Behavioral Health Assessment study was presented today by FSG, the consulting firm that conducted community research over the past five months.

FSG hosted the zoom meeting to present the overall findings of the research and invited local organizations to discuss opportunities to expand mental and behavioral health needs in the community.

The study was funded by the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole through a community emergency response fund.

Abigail Ridgway managing director of FSG, said, “Wyoming is ranked 50th in the country by Mental Health Association of America.”

The Behavioral Health Assessment study was conducted over five months by studying the community through secondary research, surveys and steering committee meetings.

Miya Cain, senior consultant at FSG, presented the high-level findings of the study.

Cain said, “One in two men are drinking excessively, rates are twice as high as the rest of the country, and rates in Teton County are higher than the rest of the state.”

Cain also discussed access to treatment. While the community has somewhat unusually high needs, four out of five people are getting the care they need because of the robust provider sector in the community. But the study found, this is taking a toll on the provider’s mental health.

“We have a ton of local providers, we don’t need to recruit more providers but we need to make sure they are supported.”

“The number one thing providers said they could benefit from is support from their peers.”

Barriers to accessing treatment include cost, lack of awareness, and stigma. For the Latinx, LGBTQ, low-income and elderly communities, a lack of diversity amongst providers is another factor. barriers are compounded for these communities.

Another barrier that was identified was the lack of facilities. There is no local detox center or inpatient or outpatient facilities so individuals have to leave Teton County, their families, and jobs to receive care, explained Cain.

The need for acute care in times of crisis was also discussed, primarily for young people. “Kids as young as nine dealing with suicidal ideations,” said Cain. “The system is not equipped to handle the volume of individuals who need acute health care support.”

Opportunites to combat the findings from the study were also discussed.

Ridgway said that communities are more successful in combating behavioral issues when they have a shared understanding of the issues. She also pointed out that our community can look at how other ski towns deal with similar behavioral health issues, specifically Vail.

Jodie Pond, Teton County Health Department director of health, spoke about opportunities to combat loneliness and party culture. She talked about mentor programs for kids and normalizing substance-free socialization. “It’s really hard I think in this community, everywhere you go there is alcohol,” Pond said.

Sarah Cavallaro, executive director at Teton Youth and Family services spoke about opportunities to develop community programming for children and families, including home visits to provide parenting advice for “small behavioral issues” like kids not wanting to take out the trash to prevent families from reaching crisis levels.

Crisis response opportunities were also discussed. According to Deidre Ashley, executive director at Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center, crisis calls are increasing and law enforcement is also seeing an increase in mental health-related calls. The counseling center manages a 24/7 crisis line and has assisted law enforcement with some of their calls.

Jackson Chief of Police Michelle Weber said that she is working on a job posting for a social worker to help respond to crisis call in the community. The funding for the position was approved by the Jackson Town Council.

The full report with be available on Nov. 15.

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.