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Collaborative effort in Seneca County addresses youth mental health service gaps




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Tiffin, Ohio — Ohio, like many other states nationwide, is facing a shortage of youth-serving Behavioral Health Professionals. This shortage has resulted in prolonged waiting lists for mental health and substance use treatment services, causing significant challenges for parents seeking assistance for their children.

The demand for behavioral health services for youth has been steadily increasing over the past three years, further exacerbating the situation.

To address this pressing issue at the local level, Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services and Seneca County Job and Family Services have joined forces in a collaborative effort. This consortium includes various key stakeholders such as Seneca Department of Job and Family Services, Lutheran Social Services, Family Counseling Services, Tiffin City Schools, Fostoria City Schools, Seneca Juvenile Court, Mental Health & Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Ottawa, Sandusky, and Wyandot Counties, Family and Children First Council, Harbor/Ohio Rise, SAFY, Cornerstone Counseling, and Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth. Together, these members have embarked on an active partnership to address the identified gaps in youth behavioral health services within Seneca County.

Director Kathy Oliver of Seneca County Job and Family Services emphasized the significance of comprehensive support for families. She highlighted the need for parenting classes and other services, acknowledging that many of the families they work with could benefit from such resources to strengthen their families. Recognizing the importance of addressing this unmet need, consortium members are actively exploring ways to provide parenting classes and in-home services in the community.

In their pursuit of effective solutions, the consortium has found that group programming can be a valuable approach in providing mental health and substance use services to children. Michelle Clinger, Ph.D., LPCC, Licensed Psychologist and Clinical Director of Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services, explained the benefits of group settings for children and adolescents. According to Clinger, group sessions provide opportunities for children and adolescents to learn coping, self-control, and social skills while receiving valuable input from their peers. She also emphasized the importance of dividing youth into age-appropriate groups to accommodate their developmental differences. Group services not only address the behavioral health workforce shortages but also allow for more children to be served effectively.

Through their collective efforts, the Consortium has successfully identified the primary groups necessary to address the majority of youth behavioral health needs in the community. Collaborative endeavors are currently underway to assign facilitators from the participating agencies to each group. Once all groups are adequately staffed, comprehensive information about the services provided will be disseminated throughout the community.

Mindy Strup, Project Manager at Seneca County Job and Family Services, encouraged parents to seek assistance without shame or blame. She emphasized the significance of transparency and accessing available resources for the well-being of their families. Strup highlighted that mental health concerns and addiction can affect anyone and assured the community that Seneca County has various organizations and agencies committed to working together to support families, regardless of their challenges.

The collaboration between Firelands Counseling & Recovery Services, Seneca County Job and Family Services, and other consortium members is a promising step towards addressing the shortage of youth-serving Behavioral Health Professionals in Ohio. By joining forces and implementing group programming, they aim to bridge the gaps in youth behavioral health services, ultimately providing much-needed support to children and their families in Seneca County.

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