By VERNON ROBISON
Mental health first aid training was the first item on a wish list of services for the Moapa Valley to focus on over the next year. Soon after, there was resilience and coping skills training for youth, respite care, and more anxiety and depression counseling resources in the community.
These four main points, and many other ideas, were raised during a community listening session in Overton, hosted by members of the PACT Coalition on Tuesday, November 9. About 30 local residents were present to participate in the session.
PACT, which stands for Prevention, Advocacy, Choices, Teamwork, was established as a regional non-profit association in 2010 to tackle substance abuse in communities across the region.
PACT Executive Director Jamie Ross told meeting attendees that PACT is offered as a “neutral convening table” that brings together various stakeholders to identify needs and then provides resources to meet those needs. That’s the definition of a “coalition model,” Ross said.
“It’s really a group of people coming together and carrying on with their individual interests and identities, to understand that they are here to work as a whole and to connect to community resources,” said Ross. “”
Ross acknowledged that this idea of a coalition is usually second nature to people in small towns who are used to working together. “I know in a small town this is more true than anywhere else,” she said. “You are continuing proof that the coalition model really works. “
Ross said that the main focus of PACT is the problem of substance abuse. But she pointed out that this problem extends to many different facets of a community.
“When it comes to preventing substance abuse, we’re not talking about drugs at all,” she said. “We are discussing how to make our community safer. Do children feel like they can talk to an adult in their community? Do adults feel like they have somewhere to turn to? Because if all of these things are in the right place, then the substance use numbers tend to go down. “
Novlette Mack, also from PACT, spoke about ways the coalition has already been involved in working with stakeholders in the Moapa Valley in the recent past. She explained how PACT provided grants to help organize the MVHS graduation ceremonies at Logandale Ballfields in May. They also provided a matching grant to bring renowned Suicide Prevention speaker Kevin Hines into the community in September for the Mental Health Show. PACT funding has also helped organize high school dances, outdoor movie nights, sober graduation parties, parenting classes through the courthouse and more.
Mack said much of these successes were due to a strong partnership with community stakeholders who were ready to do the groundwork.
“We’ve had a lot of strong partners here over the past year,” Mack said. “We want to thank you for doing all the work. This is how it should work: we write the checks and you do the work in the community.
Over the next hour, Ross led a brainstorming session on priority areas for next year in the Moapa Valley. Each participant was invited to give their opinion in various ways.
In the end, three main areas of interest emerged. First, the focus was on mental health and addiction prevention. Second, the focus was on community schools and young people. Third, it was to fight against food insecurity in the community.
More brainstorming within the group yielded a long list of important resources in each of these categories that are needed in the Moapa Valley community.
This list was written on a large poster and posted on the walls of the Overton Community Center room. Next, participants were given three colored sticky dots and were asked to place them on the items that they believed were the top three local priorities.
Mental health first aid training received the most colorful dots on the poster. This training, which aims to spot signs of mental illness and know what to do about them, is given by certified instructors to one or two volunteers in a community. This is a crash course that takes a long time for these people. Then, the newly trained experts take the knowledge home and train other young people and adults to use the techniques in the community.
“It’s a tough job to do,” Ross said. “It’s a pretty heavy load. But if you have people willing to do it, we can definitely consider helping you out. “
Other items listed (in addition to the four most popular already listed) included substance abuse prevention programs at the elementary school level, a youth helpline, a larger JAG program at MVHS, first responder training for scouts, prevention of vaping among young people and minors. alcohol consumption, pornography awareness and more.
Ross said she was happy with the items wishlist. She said her team would work on these results and come back with a more detailed report to present to the group on how to move forward in the Moapa Valley.
“This is how we work,” said Ross. “You tell us what you need and we strive to get the resources to do it. “
Earlier in the meeting, the local Teen Leadership Corps (TLC) group, made up of local high school and college volunteers organized as part of 4H, gave a presentation on their plans for the future.
This group, which provided much of the planning and volunteer manpower for the Moapa Valley Mental Health Resource Fair in September, focused on another growing problem among young people: the effects pornography.
TLC members said they were working to get an anti-pornography group called “Fight the New Drug” to present to young people in the area.
“Fight the New Drug” was founded in 2009 by University students from Utah as a non-religious, non-legislative organization.
“It raises awareness of the harmful and addictive social and personal effects of pornography,” said Shaylee Adams, member of TLC, a junior at MVHS.
The TLC group presented a plan to organize a series of community fundraisers to raise $ 3,000 to bring “Fight the New Drug” to the youth of Moapa Valley. Keep an eye on The Progress for more information on upcoming fundraising events.