Mental health has become an issue in the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center has received $122, 488 for Bourbon County needs from SPARK funds distributed from the U.S. Coronavirus Fund. SPARK is a Kansas program that is moving Kansas forward in recovery from the effects of COVID-19.
” We are unfortunately seeing the mental health needs of our community increase,” said Holly Jerome, Director of Human Resources with Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center located at 304 N Jefferson Ave, Iola.
“Things that increase depression and anxiety are fear, loneliness, isolation, etc,” she said. “During the pandemic, we are seeing individuals who have never experienced mental health issues who are struggling very badly. We are also seeing increased drug use, domestic violence, unemployment stress, and suicidal ideation. The funding is helping to keep our staff safe to keep services going, keep our doors open, and connect with the community.”
” We are so grateful to Bourbon County (Commission, the local agent who is helping to distribute the grants) to continue to support the important work that we are doing at SEKMHC,” Jerome said.
“We have purchased lots of PPE for our staff and client safety to include: masks, face shields, plastic barriers, gloves, hand sanitizer, increased cleaning/sanitation of our office in Fort Scott,” she said. “We also have supplied our after-school children’s program with masks.
“It is also being put towards increased Information Technology needs, as we had some clients and families who did not have a way to connect with us so we were able to supply some tablet devices to make that happen,” she said.
“We also purchased Zoom licenses to have an encrypted safe way to connect with those at home especially during quarantine and isolation as that can be very challenging for most people. We also purchased more IT equipment for our staff to work from home if they need to be on quarantine to keep services going. In addition to that, we are also upgrading our website to be ADA compliant with screen readers for the visually impaired to be able to access services.”
Public Education, Interior Upgrades
“We are also putting some local advertising out to educate the public and community about our services and are upgrading some flooring with the help of Ruddick’s (Fort Scott) and furniture pieces from McCarty’s (Chanute and Iola) to make sure that everything can be wiped down and sanitized frequently,” Jerome said.
Community Pocket Park
“I think the most exciting thing that we are doing is putting in a community ‘pocket park’,” she said. “We had an open space beside our building that was just some rocks. We are working with local company ‘Playscapes’ (out of Yates Center) to put in a shade covering, rubberized flooring, ADA compliant chairs for STEM exercises with children, and ADA compliant picnic tables, etc. Redbud Farms out of Fort Scott will be helping us get some shrubs and pots to make the area look nice with rock and mulch as well as some concrete work from Mitch Welch (Redfield, KS). We have also ordered some outdoor musical equipment for this area for some musical therapy. This pocket park will be open to the public as a great place to come and relax, sit in a chair to journal, meditation, etc. It will also create additional space for our case managers and therapists to continue social distanced appointments and group meetings that we can space out.”
“One of the things that was very important to us was to spend the money locally whenever possible,” Jerome said. “So we are so excited at how many local companies have stepped up to the challenge of making our deadlines work to get everything completed by December 31, 2020. We are so grateful to have such wonderful local talent and mission-driven small businesses!”
About Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center.
“SEKMHC was established in 1961, we are a not-for-profit organization that provides, advocates and coordinates quality mental health care, services and programs in the following counties: Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Linn, Neosho and Woodson. Our team of over 150 full-time and part-time professionals work to assess, treat, support, and/or coordinate your healthcare needs. Our core services include outpatient psychiatry, therapy, consultation, chemical abuse counseling, case management, educational and skill-building groups, specialty training, physical healthcare coordination, and 24/7 crisis intervention services.
The mission of the Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center is to provide, advocate, and coordinate quality mental health care, services and programs for people in its service area.”
The center’s website is: www.sekmhc.org