In many rural towns, finding adequate mental health services can be a challenge. Though Cottage Grove has its own share of resources, it may soon be adding more to that list.
As a result of a recent $230,000 grant commitment by PacificSource Foundation for Health Improvement, six nonprofit organizations based in Oregon, Montana and Idaho, were chosen to receive funds. Lane County’s branch of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has received $20,000 as part of that grant to expand its peer-led programs in rural areas.
“We have already started to do more outreach within Cottage Grove,” said Jennifer MacLean, executive director of NAMI Lane County.
It won’t be the nonprofit’s first activity in Cottage Grove, however.
“It’s ebbed and flowed over our whole history of being NAMI in Lane County,” MacLean said. “At one time we had multiple support groups happening on a weekly basis in Cottage Grove. Currently we have zero and we’ve been trying to reinvigorate that.”
That reinvigoration involves outreach efforts that have seen NAMI attending the South Valley Farmers Market, connecting with the school district and meeting with South Lane Mental Health in an effort to find volunteers.
“We’re trying to get the word out that we’re looking for individuals to facilitate our peer programming, whether that’s a support group or an education class,” said MacLean. “All the programs are peer-led and free and confidential.”
NAMI’s peer-led services are conducted by two facilitators who guide groups of between four to 15 members through a discussion of issues they choose to address.
“It’s just resources and referrals,” MacLean said. “So there’s no diagnosing, there’s no medication, there’s no case management.”
The facilitators of support groups are not mental health professionals, but individuals who have self-identified as living in recovery with mental illness. The grant funding will enable the nonprofit to recruit and train such facilitators in the area.
“We just had one individual trained, so now we’re looking for a partner for her, so that way we can get, ideally, a weekly support group for Cottage Grove,” said MacLean.
Training times, however, are set by NAMI Oregon and another session may not come around for another four to eight months.
In the past, facilitators in the area gradually dropped away due to various life occurrences and so the classes in the area evaporated. As such, NAMI is planning on strengthening the service with redundancy.
“Our goal is to identify at least four individuals, if not more, so that way we have either one or two groups going or the individuals have subs so they can float in and out,” MacLean said.
In a 2015 health profile of Lane County, the Oregon Health Authority identified about a quarter of the adult (26 and older) population as living with a mild to moderate mental health condition and another 18 percent living with a serious condition.
Though it is not clear how well those numbers represent Cottage Grove, MacLean recalls NAMI’s program receiving significant attention during its previous presence in the town.
“I believe that the need is tremendous because most services are not in rural areas,” she said. “Any program has seen more success by going to where individuals are and not expecting individuals to get to you."