Our proposed MHAT Project will provide mental health (MH) awareness training in Sioux City Iowa, a geographic area of approximately 82,560 residents and roughly 60 square miles that sits on a tri-state border with South Dakota and Nebraska. While classified as one of the “10 Most Livable Small Cities in the U.S,” not all populations in Sioux City enjoy a good quality of life and wellbeing, particularly those affected by adverse mental health conditions. For example, the most recent survey found that while representing only 2% of Sioux City’s population, 47% of Sioux City’s homeless were Native American. Mental health, domestic violence and substance abuse are the major factors contributing to homelessness. Moreover, local Native Americans have the highest percent of poverty, a whopping 40% and a major contributor to adverse mental health conditions (Community Health Needs Assessment 2019-2021 for the Siouxland Community). Sioux City suicide investigations have almost quadrupled in 2020 as there were 18 suicides reported in 2020, compared to just 5 in 2019 (1.20.21 AP news).
Our population of focus is comprised of individuals of all ages exhibiting signs or symptoms of mental illness to include school-aged children, veterans, children with a serious emotional disturbance (SED), adults with a serious mental illness (SMI), individuals with co-occurring disorders, and the general public. To increase behavioral health equity, our project will place a heavy emphasis on inclusion of Native American youth and adults among our population of focus. Over our 5-year MHAT project, we will train 1600 individuals who interact with and encounter these individuals who may be experiencing or exhibiting symptoms of a mental disorder. Our proposed MH First Aiders will include a broad and diverse representation of individuals such as school personnel, emergency first responders, law enforcement, veterans, armed services members and their families, and families, caregivers, and service providers.
Along with our many partners, our MHAT Project will be implemented by the University of Iowa’s Native Center for Behavioral Health, a research center at the University’s College of Public Health committed to developing programs to support the Native and non-Native behavioral health workforce. We will apply our mental health awareness knowledge and skills, including how to interact in a more culturally responsive manner with Native Americans affected by a mental health disorder. Aligned with recommendations from the Community Health Needs Assessment referenced above, we are proposing to implement Mental Health First Aid (MHFA including the youth version YMHFA). Also, to maximize exposure, we will also implement QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer), and ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). This approach will operationalize our project’s primary goal to: Increase MH awareness and safe and appropriate responses among individuals who interact and come into contact with persons who may be experiencing or exhibiting symptoms of a mental disorder.