Extension helps prepare HHS staff to provide mental health first aid

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 2/3/21

HERMANN — More than two dozen members of the Hermann High School faculty are in a better position of helping youths facing a mental health challenge or crisis, thanks to a program presented by …

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Extension helps prepare HHS staff to provide mental health first aid

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HERMANN — More than two dozen members of the Hermann High School faculty are in a better position of helping youths facing a mental health challenge or crisis, thanks to a program presented by the Gasconade County University of Missouri Extension Center.

Youth Mental Health First Aid is one of several programs provided under the Extension Center umbrella. Sponsored by the Missouri School Boards Association, the program presents an overview of mental illness and substance abuse disorders in the nation and introduces program participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems and highlights common treatments for youths age 12 to 18.

This program was pointed out last week by Extension Center County Engagement Specialist Lydia Nipper to the County Commission. Nipper attended the Commission session to deliver the Center’s annual report of activities.

Nipper said the Youth Mental Health First Aid program was offered at a crucial time — during the year of the coronavirus pandemic, which has added to mental health challenges faced by young people in particular. She said the need for mental  health services “has been an issue and continues to be an issue” — especially for young people.

Dave Hileman, MU Extension field specialist in human development, presented the 8-hour course for 27 members of the Hermann High School faculty and staff.

The annual report notes that course participants indicated that after the class they felt more prepared to assist a student or other you who might be facing a mental health challenge.

Hileman also has been involved in several other human development programs, including a life skills course that was to be presented to the Osage/Gasconade Treatment Court. While eight classes were planned last year, all but one were cancelled because of the pandemic. The one class that was held provided communication skills aimed at reducing conflict and was presented to 11participants from Gasconade and Osage counties.

Likewise, a plan to provide parent education classes to parents seeking to regain custody of their children was curtailed by the pandemic. The program was designed to assist Osage and Gasconade parents involved with the Children’s Division of the 20th Circuit and was developed to offer classes in Hermann and Linn, but because of the pandemic only three classes were held, all in Hermann. A total of 14 parents attended one of the parenting classes.

The Extension Center is one of several outside agencies that receive county tax dollars. This year, the Center was allocated $57,000 in the county’s 2021 operating budget.

In other matters at last week’s Commission session, Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, R-Hermann, noted that he and other Meramec Regional Planning Commission members earlier in the week delivered the planning agency’s list of legislative priorities to members of the Missouri General Assembly. Miskel said he talked with nine state representatives and three senators, including legislators who represent Gasconade County.

While Miskel wanted to discuss the need for a statewide use tax that could be distributed to the counties, he found lawmakers’ attention being focused on another tax. “They’re talking fuel tax,” he said, although he mentioned the issue of a statewide use tax hasn’t been completely ignored so far this session. “There are a couple bills floating round for a use tax,” he said.

Gasconade County administrators are leaning toward scheduling a special election to again ask voters to approve a use tax. A use tax is a sales tax that is applied to purchases made over the Internet.

After a year in which there were four elections, there is only one regularly scheduled election this year — the April General Municipal Election. Not wanting to get caught up in some other political entity’s effort to win a tax issue, the County Commission has been weighing the possibility of a special election.

County Clerk Lesa Lietzow told the Commission that the city of Bland is scheduled to have a sales tax issue on the April ballot to fund a police department. A use tax is a sales tax on purchases made over the internet. Gasconade County voters have rejected a proposed use tax six times in the past decade.

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