Help Grundy County by Sharing What You Know about its Behavioral Health System

The Behavioral Health Alliance of Grundy County is sponsoring a community dialogue and information gathering session on Tuesday, January 24, 2017, at the Grundy County Administration Center, 1320 Union St., Morris IL.  The meeting will begin at 3 p.m. and is themed “Missing Pieces.”

All stakeholders—from referrers to providers to clients—in Grundy County’s behavioral health system are urged to take part in this discussion of needs and gaps, especially in regard to youth and young adults.  Insights gathered in the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment will be shared as part of a process that suggests potential collaborations to address gaps and challenges.

Participants are asked to R.S.V.P. via the E-vite link or by calling Devan at 815-941-0852.  You can get more information by calling 815-942-0852 or emailing


Local Radio Ads Remind Parents of Alcohol’s Impact on the Teenage Brain

Tune in to WCSJ Radio between now and January 15th and you will likely hear a new ad educating adults about the dangers of alcohol to the development of the teenage brain.

The ad is read by Becky Peterson, substance abuse counselor at Premier Academy, for the Grundy County Parent Communications Campaign to Prevent Underage Drinking.  The ad urges local parents to stand against the use of alcohol by and parent by the code “Be Their Guide.  Don’t Provide.”

The ad is based on key findings outlined in a federal report released in November calling for a shift in the way America addresses substance abuse disorder. 

According to Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, scientific evidence shows that adolescence is a critical “at-risk period” for substance use and addiction.  All addictive drugs, including alcohol and marijuana, have especially harmful effects on the adolescent brain, which is still undergoing significant development.

The release of the 2016 report by Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murphy marks the first time a U.S. surgeon general’s report has been dedicated to substance addiction.  And it comes at a time when only 10% of those who are now addicted are receiving treatment and one in seven Americans will face addiction in their lifetime.

The 428-page report, downloadable at, delves deeply into the science of addiction, explaining the mechanisms of how alcohol and other drugs hijack the brain’s reward system and change neurological pathways.  The result is the entrenchment of unhealthy behaviors that feed the addiction and set up barriers to change.

Early life experiences in childhood and adolescence play important roles in the development of addiction disorders, according to the report.  Research now indicates that the majority of those who meet criteria for a substance use disorder in their lifetime started using substances during adolescence and met the criteria by age 20 to 25.

The following risk factors are found to be most significant in the development of addiction:

COMMUNITY: Easy access to inexpensive alcohol and other substances.

FAMILY: Low parental monitoring, a family history of substance use or mental disorders, and high levels of family conflict or violence.

INDIVIDUAL: Current mental disorders, low involvement in school, a history of abuse and neglect, and a history of substance use during adolescence.

The prevention campaign “Be Their Guide. Don’t Provide.” is aimed at reducing youth access to alcohol by increasing parental disapproval of underage drinking and promoting the adoption of important parenting techniques, such as getting to know your child’s friends and enforcing rules around curfew, substance use, and other issues.

For more information about the campaign, contact Anita Young, Prevention Communications Coordinator at Chestnut Health Systems, at or 815-725-3868.

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Youth Mental Health First Aid

In Fall of 2015, the Grundy County Health Department was selected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as a grant recipient for their Now is the Time Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education) program.  The program is designed to build and expand the capacity of state and local agencies to increase awareness of mental health and substance abuse issues among school-age youth.  Under this initiative, the Health Department is providing Youth Mental Health First Aid training to adults who work with youth.

What is Mental Health First Aid?

Mental Health First Aid originated in Australia in 2001 by Betty Kitchener, a nurse with specialization in health education, and Anthony Jorm, a mental health literacy professor.  Its development has evolved into an 8-hour public education course that introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental illness, helps build participants’ understanding of the impact of mental health disorders, and also overviews common supports.  The course made its debut in the U.S. in 2008 and is coordinated by The National Council for Behavioral Health, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Mental Health First Aid USA worked with experts at the National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health at the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development to create the youth program.  Youth Mental Health First Aid was introduced in 2012 to focus on how to assist youth ages 12-18 that may be developing or experiencing a mental health challenge. Participants learn about the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents and utilizes role-playing and simulations to demonstrate how to assess for a mental health crisis, select interventions and provide initial help, and connect young people to professional, peer, social, and self-help care.  Participants do not learn to diagnose, nor how to provide therapy.  Rather, they learn to support youth by applying a five-step action plan:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen nonjudgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

Who should take the course?

Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed for adults who regularly interact with youth.  This includes teachers, school personnel, coaches, youth group leaders, parents, recreational group staff, as well as medical staff, employers, business leaders, faith communities, and first responders, and the general public!

Since its inception, Mental Health First Aid courses have resulted in over 600,000 adults being trained and is included on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.  The program itself was included in President Obama’s plan to reduce gun violence and increase access to mental health services.  In 2014, Congress appropriated $15 million to SAMHSA for training teachers and school personnel in Youth Mental Health First Aid and the program continues to receive broad bipartisan support.

What will this program do for Grundy County?

It is expected that over the course of three years, this initiative will include training 400 adults in Youth Mental Health First Aid, thereby positively impacting the lives of 8,000 Grundy adolescents, ages 12-18.  The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Division of the Grundy County Health Department plans to maximize community partnerships and referral systems in order to better intervene with youth who are demonstrating early warning signs and symptoms of mental health conditions.   With 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness beginning by age 14 and 75 % by age 24, our goal is to increase knowledge, combine that with community resources and referral sources, and aim to have Grundy youth directed to needed services at earlier ages, thereby reducing more serious behavioral health issues later on in life.

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Membership Information

If you are interested in becoming a BHA member, download the BHA membership form here.