Washington County Executive Joshua Schoeman is concerned about people abusing opioids and increasing mental health issues, especially due to the social isolation of some people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
So he and county officials at the Department of Health and Human Services are doing something about it.
Schoeman recently announced Washington County’s Change the End campaign to help residents find mental health and substance use resources. People in need are asked some basic questions on changetheend.com to find the resources that can best help them.
Schoeman said the county hopes to inform people about the campaign through social media, digital advertising, radio and television ads. He said some people may feel more comfortable getting the resources online than calling someone. There could be more privacy with that, he said.
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Schoeman said when he and other county officials have hosted community conversations about access to mental health services, some residents have said that when they’re ready to get help, it’s hard to find.
“I think anything we can do to help with social isolation and substance abuse is worth it,” he said, adding that the resources could help more residents in crisis and those seeking help. having experienced mental health problems due to social isolation.
A growing problem
Schoeman noted that mental health care is a big issue right now. Mental Health America reports that 56% of adults with mental illness do not receive treatment for their condition.
Schoeman also cited concerns about Washington County’s growing opioid crisis. In 2019, the rate was 16 per 10,000, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health. In 2020, this has risen to 25 per 10,000.
In neighboring Waukesha County, it was 83 per 10,000 in 2020, up from 50 per 10,000.
Co-occurrence of substance use and mental illness is common. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately 50% of people with severe mental disorders are affected by substance use. And 37% of alcohol users and 53% of drug users also have at least one serious mental illness.
“Our goal is to make community resources as accessible as possible to everyone,” said Julie Driscoll, Washington County’s chief health and human services officer. “We recognize the work that is needed to help remove barriers and increase access to effective, quality treatments and resources. That’s why we created this initiative; it has to start happening now, and we’re ready to take the responsibility.”
“We are committed to seeing this campaign flourish and have a strong network of programs, services and facilities committed to connecting people with the support, assessment and treatment needed for recovery,” said Schoeman.
How Change Ending works.
Find resources by visiting changetheend.com.
The website will ask if you live in Washington County and then if you have a mental health, suicidal or substance use problem. If you are not a county resident, the site will direct you to resources to find out-of-county help.
The site will list resources available to county residents. Results can be filtered for services that provide assistance to those without insurance.