STOPit App Expands to Community

Submitted by Kate Nichols

As Mental Health Awareness Month draws to an end, it is important to remember that mental health issues impact the lives of many of our community members every day of the year. Wayne County Family Connection, in partnership with Wayne Memorial Hospital and Rayonier Advanced Materials, is excited to share a new community-wide reporting tool that will connect individuals who have concerns regarding mental health problems and substance use disorders with local and regional resources that can help.

STOPit Solutions is a leading technology company that promotes public and personal safety by providing anonymous reporting systems and 24/7 incident monitoring services for schools, businesses and government entities across the nation. Anonymity empowers individuals to reach out for help regarding sensitive issues, and trained operators are guaranteed to address reports in less than an hour. Our county will have access to both of these services, as well as a 24/7 telephone hotline.

Once implemented, Wayne County residents can download the STOPit app on their smartphones and submit reports through the user-friendly interface. When a report is received, it is assessed and routed to local professionals who specialize in mental health treatment and substance use recovery. Reporters can then engage in a two-way dialogue with a real person while maintaining complete anonymity if desired. When enough information is gathered about the incident or concern, the representative can direct individuals to the resources that best fit their needs. Reports can also be submitted through the STOPit website or telephone hotline.

The STOPit program does not replace 911 in cases of emergency or immediate danger. However, STOPit monitoring offers law enforcement integration and, in the event an emergency is reported through the app, trained operators in the STOPit Incident Monitoring Center will immediately contact local authorities with all relevant information. 

School system employees and those with a child in high school may be familiar with the STOPit program. Since 2019, the Wayne County School System has utilized the program as a proactive tool to manage and prevent incidents such as bullying, substance use and self-harm. By expanding the program to include the entire county, prevention and intervention of mental health and substance use issues can be implemented on a larger scale.

The STOPit system will allow local organizations, many of whom are already part of the Wayne County Family Connection collaborative, to further their goals of reaching the individuals who need their services most.

“This system will help identify unmet needs of individuals right here at home, who are struggling or know someone who is struggling, and may be more comfortable reaching out for help knowing they will not be immediately identified,” explains Susan DeLeGal, member of the Mental Health Task Force at Wayne County Family Connection.

Stay tuned for more information about the Wayne County STOPit program in the coming weeks, including educational tutorials showing how to download the application and use it to submit reports. In the interim, questions can be directed to Wayne County Family Connection Director Lana Wright at www.waynehelp.com, familyconnection@waynehelp.com or 912-256-2150.

Growing better together

By Rachel Autry

(Editor’s note: Rachel Autry is the advocacy and recruitment coordinator for Tri-County CASA.)

This month, April, is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a month dedicated to taking notice of—and working to change—a large problem in our communities.

Child abuse can be sexual, physical, emotional or mental, and in some cases, a victim will experience more than one kind of abuse. Child abuse often goes hand-in-hand with child neglect, and neither crime is limited to a “certain part” of the population.

It’s a problem that transcends racial boundaries—with Caucasian children slightly more likely to be victims than African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American children. Contrary to popular perception, children from middle-class families are more likely to be abused than their poor and extremely poor neighbors. Sadly, it is children 2 years of age and under who experience abuse the most of all age groups, and special-needs children are abused at a higher rate than non-special-needs children.

Abuse and its frequent partner, neglect, have life-long consequences for their victims. Child victims of abuse and neglect have a lower chance of graduating from high school, will have trouble getting or keeping a well-paying job, and often have trouble socially. These children are more likely to become victims of other crimes and to die from overdose of drugs or alcohol. They’re also more likely to suffer from heart disease, diabetes and cancer, tending to have more health problems in general throughout their lives.

But abuse can be prevented. Children grow in communities, and communities can play a large part in creating strong, resilient families and safe, happy children. Children in safe and loving homes are not only more resilient to adversity but are also able to recover from past traumas. When the community creates resources for those having trouble with finances, education, housing or health, it not only helps to lower the rate of child abuse but also helps victims excel in life. Those who become foster or adoptive parents or volunteer with organizations such as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) programs also help child abuse victims.

Georgia has a hotline for supportive family resources at 1-800-CHILDREN (244-5373), as well as an interactive resource map on the Prevent Child Abuse Georgia website. You can learn more about our local CASA program at tri-countycasainc.org or on our  Facebook page at Tri-County CASA, Inc., GA. Georgia’s Child Abuse Reporting hotline is 1-855-422-4453.

All this month, let’s sow seeds of change so we can grow a better tomorrow together!

COVID-19 Crisis Has Exacerbated Lack of Access…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 14, 2020

COVID-19 Crisis Has Exacerbated Lack of Access to Health Care and Housing Insecurity for Vulnerable Families and Children in Georgia

Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey results show how families in Georgia are coping during the coronavirus pandemic—data reveal food, income, and housing insecurity; mental health concerns; and a lack of access to health care

ATLANTA—Georgia has the highest percentage in the nation of families with children concerned about losing their housing in the next month due to income loss from the pandemic, according to Kids, Families, and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond, a report developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The report, released today, provides data on how families in all 50 states are faring during the COVID-19 crisis.

More than half of adults with children in Georgia—58%—reported that they’re concerned about eviction or foreclosure due to pandemic-related income loss, with half of Georgia’s adults with children reporting that they have lost income since the beginning of the pandemic. The report also reveals that Georgia has the second-highest rate of adults who have children in their households who lack health insurance, at 19%—compared to the national average of 12%. Access to health care is always critical, but especially so during the current health crisis.

The report is generated from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, a weekly survey of Americans seeking to understand how families have been managing in the midst of the pandemic for the past nine months. The data show that families across Georgia and the nation are struggling on multiple fronts, with Georgians reporting high economic insecurity, which includes housing and food. For example, 16% of adults with children in Georgia reported that they sometimes or often did not have enough food to eat in the past week, exceeding the national average of 14%.

“The number of families going hungry in Georgia right now is unprecedented—higher than we have ever seen,” said Georgia Food Bank Association Executive Director Danah Craft. “Georgia’s food banks are responding to a 50% increase in demand that surged in March and continues today. Kids who are food insecure are more likely to have poor health overall, getting sicker more often and needing more care. Adults who don’t have the food they need are more likely to miss work and have a difficult time holding down a job, compounding the crisis. We’re the final backstop to keep families from falling into complete crisis, and additional support for children and families in Georgia is vital.”

The pandemic is disproportionately hurting families of color. Black or African American and Hispanic or Latino adults with children reported food insecurity at twice the rate of white Georgians, and were significantly more likely to be concerned that they would not be able to afford usual household expenses.

“Every child in the United States should have the basics, and families should have support to survive the considerable stress and pain of these times,” said Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Our leaders can respond to the COVID-19 crisis by putting equity first, prioritizing children’s physical and mental health, helping families achieve financial stability, and strengthening schools so kids can thrive in spite of the extraordinary times.”

The data also show the mental health toll caused by the pandemic, with more than 30% of adults with children in Georgia reporting they’ve experienced anxiety in the past week, and more than 20% reporting feeling down, depressed, or hopeless in the past week.

“The pandemic has increased the rates of many determinants of mental health conditions, such as isolation, poverty, and lacking sense of security,” said Kim Jones, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Georgia chapter. “Due to this, the data show that mental health issues will be our next pandemic. In 2020, Georgia ranked 51st in access to mental health. We must do better as a state and make mental health a priority when addressing the health of Georgia’s children.”

One positive trend in Georgia is that, compared with several months ago, access to devices for digital learning for children has improved across race and ethnicity. In July, 76% of Black or African American students had access to devices for digital learning, but by September, that rate had risen to 95%. On average, Georgia’s device access increased from 80% in July to 94% in September, exceeding the national average of 93%.

Still, Georgia is either in line with national averages or worse than the national average for the majority of data points, indicating the urgent need for support for this state’s children and families. The data paint a clear picture that Georgia’s families need help across income, housing, health care, food, and several other key areas.

Overall, the data underline the desperate need for state and federal help to ensure that Georgians can make it through the pandemic, not only with their health, but without falling into poverty, starvation, and homelessness.

Given the level of need and struggle the data reveal in the report, here are recommendations for decisionmakers to consider on behalf of children and families as we move into 2021:

  • Use data disaggregated by race and ethnicity to inform decision-making. Understanding which communities have been hit hardest by the pandemic—along with sprawling side effects—will help determine where support is needed most.

  • Work with communities to craft local solutions to their urgent needs, and include their input about their own struggles and needs as decisions are made about how best to support Georgians during this critical time.

  • Prioritize both physical and mental health. Widely distributing a vaccine to all Georgians is critical, just as is supporting those struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. In a school setting, ensuring an adequate counselor-to-student ratio could help alleviate mental health struggles in children.

  • The economic toll of the pandemic on children and families is severe. Georgia families need help with employment, housing, food security, physical and mental health care access, and other issues. Decisionmakers across sectors must provide strategies for economic relief that will keep people in their homes, keep food on the table, and allow people to get the care they need.

  • Schools have been asked to shoulder an enormous lift during the pandemic. Ensuring that schools have the funding and resources they need to support their communities amid ongoing uncertainty is paramount. Furthermore, schools located in communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic will need additional supports.

“We knew the pandemic would have dangerous and far-reaching effects on children and families,” said Gaye Smith, executive director of Georgia Family Connection Partnership, Georgia’s KIDS COUNT grantee. “Having these data help us better understand those effects so we can develop a response that will help our most vulnerable Georgians weather this storm in the moment, then position themselves to succeed in the new environment we’ll all find ourselves in on the other side of this crisis.”

Contact: Bill Valladares
william@gafcp.org
404-739-0043

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