Participating in the project allowed all the collaborating agencies and staff to know their community better. The many requirements of the CRRI grant for establishing collaborative partnerships, conducting screenings, or distributing surveys led individuals and organizations to examine their entire community in much greater detail. Examining how the behavioral health needs of the community are met during times of economic distress was profoundly informative and the overall evaluation process was a powerful educational tool.
This collaborative effort was important to address the reluctance and stigma attached to help-seeking for mental health and substance use services among the local Hispanic immigrant, male population. One of the important results of this CRRI effort was how the project emphasized the need to continually outreach and share mental health and substance program resources with the wider community. There is increased community awareness of the how depression, substance use, and unemployment during times of poor economic conditions are connected.
Organizations in Union City now recognize how various resources were profoundly useful to people in need. For example, job-seeking and support services are essential resources along with mental health and substance use services. In addition, the CRRI project provided the resources so that financially strapped organizations could place staff out into the community, which was particularly effective in getting the word out to the residents. Adapting all outreach and treatment resources for Spanish-language community members and hiring fluent bilingual staff to meet the specific needs and values of this community was very useful for the community.
It was unusual to envision a high school substance use program as a tool to recruit more community families into accessing mental health and other services, but through understanding the needs of this community deeply, the usefulness of this approach became a reality. This program found that involving parents was a powerful way to educate the adults about their children's -- and perhaps their own -- behavioral health needs. Program flexibility and honoring community wisdom and leadership for establishing tailored interventions in the future was recommended by the program participants.
Project staff indicated their belief that this project did result in a more "normalization" of help-seeking behaviors. Offering grant opportunities similar to CRRI for other communities would allow them to experience the same learning about how screening, coaching on help-seeking, reducing stigma, and coordinating service systems to be more collaborative can lead to improved client usage and outcomes.