COLLEGE STATION – The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service presented its Superior Service Award – Diversity to a group of county agents concentrating on mental health awareness.
The Superior Service awards are the highest award presented by the agency. The recipients were honored Jan. 8 with a noon luncheon.
The recipients of the diversity award were family and community health agents Lorrie Coop, Knox County; Monica Walker, with Baylor County at the time, now with Kansas State Research and Extension; and Alinda Cox, Jack County.
“While mental health was identified as an emerging issue and these agents realized the need and value in addressing it, there was a lack of resources available to support any educational effort,” said Dana Tarter, AgriLife Extension regional program leader for Vernon and Stephenville. “This was a barrier that the team set out to overcome.”
After researching available options, the team found the Youth Mental Health First Aid, YMHFA, program. YMHFA is operated by The National Council for Behavioral Health, and the team felt that it would meet their needs.
The team was trained in Mental Health First Aid through a program of the National Council for Behavioral Health.
“This program benefits the residents of the Rolling Plains and South Plains in a variety of ways,” Tarter said. “The first benefit has been to expand and improve traditional health and wellness programming of AgriLife Extension. AgriLife has a long tradition of nutrition and physical wellness programming. The subject matter of mental health education awareness has helped us reach new audiences and collaborate with new partners.”
The team provided 184 hours of training through 23 eight-hour sessions reaching approximately 360 participants including teachers, parents, family members, caregivers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other youth organizations.
Their training efforts with outside groups help validate the importance and need for family and community health programs through AgriLife Extension, the nomination stated. These partnerships have also led the team to secure additional grants and funding to support the program.
The third benefit has been the value of the Mental Health First Aid subject matter to AgriLife employees. With the Panhandle wildfire recovery efforts in mind, mental health recovery is something to be addressed, the nomination stated. This training in Mental Health First Aid will assist AgriLife Extension in the coming months and years in this area.