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Effort to collaborate on mental health issues starts with two Newberg women Kristen Stoller and Elise Yarnell

The growing need for accessibility to mental health services within Newberg and Yamhill County prompted Kristen Stoller and Elise Yarnell to take action.

The pair hosted the Yamhill County Mental Health Collaboration dinner and discussion June 6 at Providence Newberg Medical Center with the objective of assembling mental health professionals to learn and educate each other about the resources available to communities in the county. Armed with that information, they then hope to create a handbook or website to be used as a resource.

"My voice matters as a mom and there are many parents out there who want to be a part of this conversation," Stoller said. "Things need to change, we need to wrap around it and see how we can support this differently."

Stoller is president of the Newberg Education Foundation; Yarnell is behavior mental health manager at Providence Newberg Medical Center.

"The reason that Kristen and I came to together is because of Kristen's involvement at the clinic that I am a manager at," Yarnell said. "We (Newberg Providence Mental Health Clinic) have an investment with the Newberg School District surrounding mental health services at the high school. Our involvement (came about) last year in May after a number of attempts and a completed suicide."

Dr. Jeri Turgesen, a psychologist in the Newberg Multi-Specialty Clinic at the medical center, spoke at the dinner last week about access to mental health services in the city and throughout the state.

"Currently Oregon is No. 48 in the nation in regard to adults and mental health and our ability to access mental health treatment," Turgesen said. "For our youth … we are 41st in the nation."

Turgesen reported that three studies conducted by the county found significant concerns about the prevalence of mental health issues, the onslaught of chemical dependency and the significant psycho-social factors that are impacting mental health care, including access to housing, resources and healthy food.

"All three studies made a recommendation that we need to find ways to increase accessibility of mental care within our communities," Turgesen said.

Yarnell concurred, adding "As health care providers we tend to say that we are providing services for the "X" populations and there seems to be a gap between services that are provided between different agencies and the community and the community members to be able to access it. (It is important to) really destigmatize accessing behavior health and emotional health services."

Stoller recounted that she is contacted regularly when parents or students are in crisis and they don't know what resources are available and where to go for assistance.

"Just that fact alone of 'Where do I start? Where do I begin," Stoller said, "really highlighted the need for a very accessible and understandable route that parents and students could use."

"I would hope that we get to a place in our community where they know that they can call a direct line at Providence or at the county or at another community agency and get someone on the phone right away and help connect them to where they can go," Yarnell added.

She explained that 23 percent of the population in the county is enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan, which means those not enrolled on the plan do not have access to those services unless they have private health insurance.

"Everybody is affected by it and the only way it can change is by opening our hearts and ears and taking some action," Stoller added. "We are behind and we are losing children because we are uncomfortable talking about these things. No more. It is nothing to be ashamed of and it actually makes it worse, tremendously worse to keep it behind closed doors and foster the negative impact of it."

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