B4B 2016 Grant Recipient: Mental Health Coalition

About JFS and the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Coalition

JFS (Jewish Family Services) is a social service agency unique in the breadth of services we provide and people we touch. JFS has a holistic approach to care, offering programs for the mind, body and spirit. Our primary areas of service include Emergency Assistance, Food Pantry, Employment, Mental Health, and Older Adult Services.

The focus of the B4B 2016 grant is the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Coalition, which is an outgrowth of JFS’s mental health services.

In 2010, a group of concerned individuals in the Jewish community began a frank conversation about mental illness, suicide and our community’s response to grief and loss. The result was the formation of the Jewish Community Mental Health Coalition made up of Jewish Family Services, the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City, and a dedicated group of volunteers. The Coalition’s campaign to reduce the stigma of mental illness was launched in the Jewish community but interest quickly grew beyond the targeted area.

In May 2014, more than a dozen community organizations came together to build on what was begun in the Jewish community by creating the Greater Kansas City Mental Health Coalition (GKCMHC). This Coalition, under the leadership of Jewish Family Services, pools resources and expertise to reduce the stigma of mental illness throughout our community. The Mental Health Coalition now has a total of 24 partner organizations.

The primary activity of the coalition thus far has been to develop a marketing campaign that includes a Web site (www.itsOK.us), videos, banners, posters and postcards. It is also doing outreach in the general community and with faith communities and youth organizations to raise awareness of mental illness in order to reduce the stigma.

How the B4B 2016 Grant will be used:

The Coalition is currently seeking funding to implement an anti-stigma and mental health awareness campaign in local high schools. This particular age group is especially important when considering these facts:

  • 20% of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition.
  • Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10 – 24.
  • 20% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14; 75% begin by age 24.

Many of GKCMHC’s 24 partner organizations do some type of work with youth, school districts, or both, as do many other mental health programs in the Kansas City metropolitan area. What our qualitative research has shown, though, is that there is not much coordination of these efforts amongst organizations. High schools often do some type of mental health focus during the year, but the extent of those efforts varies widely not just from one school district to another, but even within high schools in the same district.

GKCMHC’s goal is not to replace these activities, but to meet schools where they’re at in their efforts, offering help in assuring the quality of these programs and supplemental offerings to make their programs more well-rounded and successful.

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