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SUD a subject of ARC conference

Daily Independent - 9/14/2023

Sep. 13—ASHLAND — An all-Kentucky panel of Appalachian residents spoke to a crowd in a Tuesday afternoon breakout session during the Appalachian Regional Conference.

Three people — Marcie Timmerman, Executive Director of MHA Kentucky, Jennifer Willis, CEO of Pathways, and Aaron Poynter, Director of the Putting Kentuckians First and Reentry Branch, spoke to a crowd regarding Substance Use Disorder.

Born, raised and educated in Appalachian Ohio, Timmerman began the conference with information about Mental Health America.

"We started in 1951 — Kentucky had the first department of mental health in the nation, we were No. 1 in mental health," she said. "Mental health education is a big part of what we do, our mission right now is mental health education and system improvement through research-based information."

Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder are most frequent in Kentucky during this time with ADHD being No. 1 so far in 2023.

"There are some things we have learned from our mental health screenings. Loneliness and relationships are the most common reasons why people cite as coming to our site; the majority of our screeners are under the age of 25 and they're already lonely and having relationship problems. ADHD took a big spike in the last two quarters," she said.

"If you don't know where to send people for help, 988 is a crisis line for you and other people," she added.

Option 1 is veterans, Option 2 is Spanish and Option 3 is for LGBTQ-plus.

"The Trevor project is Option 3 right now; LGBTQ-plus people were not comfortable calling 988," she said. "They were concerned that with the localization of 988 that they may know somebody who answers the phone and could possibly out them," she said.

Willis, who has been in community mental health for 25 years, spoke on Pathways' efforts in fighting Substance Use Disorder

"Clearly our area for the most part is fairly rural; we are the folks that see everyone no matter how sick you are, whether that's mentally ill or challenged with Substance Use Disorder, we tend to see the sickest of sick people," she said.

"The grants that the group has received is really to pay for the basics," she said. "A birth certificate, social security card, a photo ID — you cannot apply for any of the things you need whether that's jobs, housing or Medicaid without these items," she said.

Pathways works with individuals to get them back on their feet. "We are working hard to move addiction from imprisonment to treatment," she said.

Poynter said he was happy to see awareness to substance use disorder and said it has been overshadowed for too long.

"Our core program is putting Kentuckians first. We target state local and regional resources. I am happy to say that we are starting to raise awareness to see the benefit of, hey let's all work together on some of this stuff," he said. "Not only are the agencies talking to each other but they are pouring back into the individual ... what we determined was that we have to incorporate behavioral health, substance use and resources into the mix because for so long it was left out; it was something that was overlooked and stigmatized."

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