Wyo Mental Health Task Force meets in Kemmerer

By Rana Jones, Gazette Reporter
Posted 6/18/24

KEMMERER — In a concerted effort to tackle pressing mental health challenges and bolster support for students, the Mental Health and Vulnerable Adult Task Force met at the South Lincoln …

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Wyo Mental Health Task Force meets in Kemmerer


KEMMERER — In a concerted effort to tackle pressing mental health challenges and bolster support for students, the Mental Health and Vulnerable Adult Task Force met at the South Lincoln Training and Event Center in Kemmerer for a pivotal meeting on Thursday, June 13.   

Members of the task force included Sens. Fred Baldwin, Eric Barlow and Tara Nethercott, as well as Reps. Lloyd Larsen, Albert Sommers and Dan Zwonitzer.   

Among the first to present to the board were Lincoln County School District No. 1 Superintendent Teresa Chaulk and Canyon Elementary School K-6 Counselor Jennifer Benson to aid in the discussion about the state’s role in providing mental health services.

Benson said she has received positive feedback about the mental health curriculum in her school from parents who have asked for similar lessons for their kids in the future.

She also said she hears concerns from parents about increasing anxiety and depression in their kids. 

Benson noted that during her career of working with special education students and counseling grades K-6 she has seen the biggest influx of need for mental health services in the recent past.

“In the seven years I have been working here I have had a huge increase in students coming in asking for services,” she said.   

Delving into multifaceted discussions and budget proposals, the task force embarked on an agenda encompassing crucial legislative considerations and informative presentations aimed at enhancing mental health services across Wyoming.

At the top of the meeting’s agenda, the board examined models presented by Maggon Osmond, founder of Kindness Matters EDU. Osmond highlighted the important role that schools play for students and their families.

“Schools connect communities,” she said, noting that athletic events and schools are the center of the community.

Osmond also works with Project Aware and stressed the importance of understanding where the root cause of suffering is coming from in a student.

“This is a social science,” she said, noting there is no linear science when it comes to dealing with mental health. She said schools are working with students who may be dealing with issues that stem from their home or areas outside of school.

Information on friendship revealed bullying often comes from friends or peers which can be exacerbated in small communities.

The task force expressed commitment to refining existing frameworks to better cater to the diverse needs of individuals grappling with mental health issues and students requiring specialized care and protection.

Presentations highlighting the existing landscape of mental health in Wyoming adolescents shed light on areas warranting attention and potential avenues for intervention and enhancement. Grim statistics put the state leading the country in suicide rate and doubling the national average in 2019. Suicide was attributed as the second cause of death for ages 10-44 in the state. 

In a bid to broaden its understanding of the spectrum of mental health challenges confronting the state, the task force devoted significant time to assessing the needs and services accessible to vulnerable adults.

Following presentations offered valuable insights into initiatives aimed at fostering resilience and empowerment within the vulnerable adult community.

As Wyoming navigates the complex terrain of mental health care, the collaborative efforts of the task force serve as a beacon of hope, signaling a concerted push toward a more inclusive, supportive and resilient society.