The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP), of which Magnolia Regional Medical Center is part, has received one of 145 awards distributed across the nation by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The grant will address growing mental health concerns.

The funding is designed to provide targeted training for individuals to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health crises and connect them to needed resources.

In a report released in April 2016 by the Arkansas Department of Health, suicide was noted as the leading cause of injury-related deaths for Arkansans between the ages of 20 and 64 and the second leading cause of death among all other age groups (Suicide Statistics Among Arkansans from 2009 to 2014, Arkansas Department of Health, 2016). Suicide is a preventable cause of death.

In October 2020, a local nurse at an ARHP member hospital called 80 inpatient facilities across multiple states before finding placement for a suicidal young adult.

The partnership says that COVID-19 is pouring fuel on the mental health problem fire in the region.

ACHI recently reported that Arkansas’ suicide rate increased by 41% between 2000 and 2018. The report also showed that the state had the 20th highest suicide rate in the nation ( The incidence of social isolation and loneliness has been exacerbated during the pandemic due to stay-at-home orders, quarantine, and social distancing.

A survey conducted by the CDC between June 24 and 30, 2020 found that one in four young adults (age 18 to 24) contemplated suicide because of the pandemic. More than 40% noted a mental or behavioral health condition connected to the pandemic. One quarter of young adults also noted that they had increased their consumption of substances as a coping mechanism for the pandemic (KHN Morning Briefing, August 14, 2020). The need for targeted training and intervention is immediate.

New SAMHSA funding will support Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP) staff to provide training in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), an evidence-based model, to professionals serving college students (college faculty, administrators, staff, coaches, and healthcare staff) and college students (student leaders, athletes, and incoming freshmen).

The population of focus is college students (typically age 18-24). Training will be provided in coordination with three local colleges (Phillips Community College, Southeast Arkansas College and University of Arkansas at Monticello) at 8 identified campuses in the region. Individuals in need of care will be referred to behavioral health services located throughout the region.

Training and services will be delivered across the following 19 counties in rural Southeast Arkansas: Jefferson, Lonoke, Prairie, Monroe, Lee, Phillips, Arkansas, Lincoln, Desha, Chicot, Drew, Bradley, Ashley, Union, Columbia, Ouachita, Dallas, Cleveland, and Grant counties.

Amanda Kuttenkuler, ARHP Mental Health Outreach Project Director, noted, “The project will look to meet two goals: first, increase the capacity of local college and healthcare partners to appropriately support and respond to the mental health needs of college students, and second, increase the number of college students prepared in evidence-based programs to recognize the mental health needs of their peers and connect them to needed resources.

“Over the next five years, we will have the opportunity to train over 6,000 local college students and those serving college students in mental health awareness and suicide prevention training.”

Mellie Bridewell, ARHP Chief Executive Officer explained, “Our office has received numerous calls to tell us that this training has already saved lives. Imagine the impact: train just one person and you have an amazing ripple effect. We are thrilled to have additional opportunities to share this information with local college students and those serving college students in the region, particularly as COVID-19 has recently increased this need.”

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