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HONESDALE – The Wayne County Commissioners marked May as Mental Health Awareness Month by taking a closer look at the relatively new System of Care, which brings together the agencies and organizations that serve children in the community with the youth themselves and their families to create the best possible continuum of services.
The System of Care was launched in the Spring of 2015 to bring youth family and system leaders together as equal and trusted partners to create sustainable change to empower those involved in youth-serving systems to be responsible and accountable for outcomes that lead to the fulfillment of hopes and dreams.
Family Tri-Chair Faith Philips said the SOC strives to create a community that supports mental health, provides information on resources and helps end the silence and stigma associated with it. Representatives attended the Awareness Fair in Harrisburg and the Special Olympics at Delaware Valley School District.
They also plan to sponsor Ice Cream Socials at the partial hospitalization programs at the local schools, and will host the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble for a special performance at the Park Street Complex on May 25 at 6:30 pm.
Coordinator Ernie Laskosky said one of the key elements of the system has been the move to Trauma Informed Care. “Our consumers have been touched by trauma and are reacting to it, so we have shifted from ‘What’s wrong with you?’ to “What happened to you?’” he explained. Otherwise, he said, “We tend to re-traumatize them.”
Commissioner Wendell Kay said the shift has meant providing training opportunities to help the staff and other providers accept the consumers “as we find them.”
Laskosky said it is about seeing consumers through “trauma informed lenses” and to bring the point home, he provided a pair of sunglasses to each of the commissioners.
Commissioner Wendell Kay said the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania created an organization to assist counties with mental health and substance abuse services 25 years ago. Its mission is to help insure the same resources and responsibility are applied to mental health challenges as those focused on physical health challenges.
Human Services Administrator Andy Whyte said she was part of that effort and noted that it marked the separation of the behavioral health specialty from physical health and was designed to protect the counties, the managed care organizations and the consumers. She called it “a positive aspect of what government can do.”
Commissioner Joseph Adams said his family is one of those success stories of the mental health system, noting the services provided resulted in a good outcome. Whyte said, “The majority of people do come to that point with some assistance and understanding.”
For information about mental health services in the community, contact the Wayne County Office of Developmental and Behavioral Programs at 570-253-9200.
Pictured with the Mental Health Awareness proclamation are, seated from left: Faith Phillips, Ernie Laskosky, Michelle Valinski and Crystal Crum. Standing, from left are Commissioner Wendell Kay, Bonnie LaTourette with Liam LaTourette, Cindy Batzel, Jane Teeple, Debbie Cornell, Heather Barker, Courtney Althouse, Commissioner Joe Adams and Andy Whyte.