This Thursday, The Wellbeing Partners and national partner Public Good Projectalong with the Douglas, Sarpy/Cass and Pottawattamie County Health Departments, and more than 150 local collaborators, will launch a regional campaign to normalize mental health and get people talking about their mental health stories, journeys, and experiences. 

We believe that each of us has a lot in common. As we share stories of grief, loss, resilience, triumph, acceptance, disappointment, longing to be connected – and really any feeling in between, we connect more closely with each other.  

So, how did we get here and why is this a thing? Good questions.  

Cass, Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie County health departments have a long-standing history of collaboration. Every three years, they partner with area health systems, federally qualified health centers, and other public health partners to implement a Community Health Needs Assessment. In 2018, they partnered with Live Well Omaha (now merged with WELLCOM as The Wellbeing Partners) to move from simply assessing health needs together to addressing health needs together. 

 There was a call to action for greater impact and to prioritize a single health needThe group agreed to: 

  • Focus on one health issue 
  • Develop a model that centered the process around community members as leaders in the journey 
  • Align three area health departments with one shared community health implementation plan 
  • Create a shared vision across two states and four counties to address root causes of the health need.

Changemaker Summit 2018 

For the first time in our 23 years of community health coalition history the three health departments Douglas, Sarpy/Cass, and Pottawattamie Counties produced one data report summarizing each of their local community’s health data – including shared areas of inequities and unique areas of need. In addition, the pediatric and adolescent health leaders joined the stage to present their aligned data. 

Together, 165 leaders, students, and resident attendees voted on the “Top Opportunities” as identified in the PRC 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment for both Adults and Child/Adolescents.

  • 1. Mental Health 
  • 2. Nutrition, Diabetes, and Physical Activity 
  • 3. Access to Health Care Services 
  • 4. Substance Abuse 
  • 5. Injury and Violence 
  • 1. Mental Health 
  • 2. Nutrition, Diabetes, and Physical Activity 
  • 3. Access to Health Services 
  • 4. Sexual Health 
  • 5. Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs  

The 2018 Changemaker Summit brought together 175 stakeholders and chose five priorities out of 11 opportunities. A “Use Your Voice” survey was launched via social media across the four counties with plain language and definition. Respondents identified mental health and access to care as the top-tier priority.

There were 171 total responses, including:

  • Sarpy – 33 
  • Cass – 7 
  • Douglas – 102 
  • Pottawattamie – 30 
  • Spanish-Speaking Residents – 6 

Seven Community Listening Sessions were held, drawing 75 community members across four counties in Nebraska and Southwest Iowa. The listening sessions helped define mental health and identify best available and current resources and supports, as well as roadblocks to accessing supports discussing gaps through mapping the four counties. Key themes emerged across the region, with each county and neighborhood’s unique challenges to be addressed via place-based strategies. The themes were:

  • Stigma of mental illness
  • Disconnectedness from services or care
  • Isolation from community and relationships

A follow-up Changemaker Listening Session was held on October 19, 2019, and attended by 156 people to begin to shape action teams. Four workgroups emerged:

  • Mental Health Stigma Reduction campaign 
  • Open Mic night on sharing stories 
  • Dinner and Connections – to share stories over dinner 
  • Mental Health Advance Directives to ensure the individual is protected at time of crisis 

The workgroups continued to meet in November of 2019 and in January of 2020 to continue the planning and implementation plans. In January 2020, The Wellbeing Partners received a grant to help the community move this work forward from The Sherwood Foundation, Mutual of Omaha Foundation, CHI Health, and Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare. Now, we can bring more resources to bear to launch a campaign that will reach the community members, employers, and community organizations who are bearing an unfair burden of mental health challenges, diagnoses, or daily stressors. 

This campaign will live through the stories that each of us shares and it will grow through social media channels, yard signs, bumper stickers, and in supportive conversations between each of us as we shine the light on WhatMakesUs. 

Please join us on July 30 for the campaign launch and find out how you can help us make a difference.  

RSVP by  July 29 at 3:00pm.