Yesterday in Eureka, CPEHN hosted the fifth and final town hall meeting to discuss the draft of the California Reducing Disparities Project’s Statewide Strategic Plan to Reduce Disparities in Mental Health. The resulting discussion, which coincided with the final day for public comment on the document, revealed the unique needs faced by the population in Humboldt County and other areas across Northern California.
The overarching theme throughout the meeting was that more emphasis needs to be placed on the unique needs faced by rural populations when interacting with mental health services. Some challenges faced by rural communities include finding adequate transportation to and from mental health services, and the lack of available mental health specialists and professionals. Unlike many of the state’s urban areas, California’s rural areas often have a handful of mental health providers for an entire county or region. At the Eureka town hall, attendees stressed that that the voice of rural California must be included in the final Strategic Plan and that the document can’t be heavily urban-centric. There was also a consensus that more needs to be done to encourage workforce development and capacity building in California’s rural counties and that there should be incentives for providers to work in these areas.
The discussion also focused on the mental health needs of veterans. Many attendees pointed out that since veterans encompass all five of the population groups whose reports formed the basis of the Strategic Plan – African Americans, Asians, Latinos, LGBTQ, and Native Americans – any efforts to reduce disparities in mental health should consider the needs of this population. Given the unique nature of the mental health needs of the veteran population, there was also discussion about cultural competency for providers working with this population. In particular, providers need an understanding of what soldiers experience in combat to be able to effectively offer mental health services to veterans.
Many attendees also brought up the importance of including youth in the Strategic Plan process. In particular, the town hall brought up the unique needs of trans teens and other LGBTQ youth and the importance of providing mental health services in trusted settings. Also, since many rural areas often lack LGBTQ resource centers, there needs to be an effort made to find other locations (coffee shops were an example given) to provide mental health outreach.
The Eureka town hall provided valuable insights into the process and the comments will be considered as the draft Strategic Plan is finalized in the coming months. Also, now that the public comment period has concluded, we would like to thank all those who contributed to this project and we look forward to incorporating your input. If you would like to know more about the next steps in the Strategic Plan process, please visit our website for the details.