Vicki Elliot Interview Notes 2/24/23

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Vicki Elliot is the Director of Mental Health Connect

Current role in the neighborhood (both from interview and web bio)

Vicki Elliot is the Director of Mental Health Connect (MHC) and has been with MHC for 4 and a half years. She has an MBA degree and a leadership background. She also serves as a Thrivent Advisor, the President of the St. Anthony Chamber of Commerce and serves on a grant committee at the Minneapolis ELCA Area Synod. She lost a son to mental health-related issues.

Mental Health Connect was formed in 2014 when families in south Minneapolis churches gathered because no one was talking about mental health in faith communities. They did door-to-door surveys about mental health asking what people regarding mental health needs. 3 things came up: faith communities should talk more about mental health so that they could be a resource for people; there should be more education on mental health; people need to know to connect with mental health resources. Mental Health Connect was formed, and they opened the navigator line, and have been training faith communities and helping clients.

Major challenges and barriers to better health outcomes and well-being for the community:

Mental health issues. With physical issues, people know to call 911 or go to hospital, but people don’t know where to go and what to do for mental health issues. By the time people contact MHC, it’s often close to crisis, and the mental health problems have been going on for years. People don’t know when to reach out for help.

We don’t understand mental health generally. There is no standard for when the issues are bad. There is no annual checkup for mental health.

There is a stigma around mental health issues. There is a stigma around words like “counselor” or “therapist.”

Access. MHC often has to help people get signed up on MNsure because people didn’t know that they need health insurance for mental health resources. A lot of sliding scale resources are short term, but MH treatment is often long term and requires many sessions.

Education is needed.

The lack of community is a big problem. 40-50 years ago, you could talk with your neighbors about what is going on with your family, but people don’t do that anymore. There is loss of support. How do we get back to connection?

Solutions and strategies to reduce barriers

MHC uses terms like “spiritual coach” and “health coach,” which helps people be more receptive when words like “therapist” are off-putting.

Different levels of support that is right for each person, and finding the right fit for care is important.

Church, faith communities.

Other areas where community happens such as community centers, drop-in centers, or even a community with a clinic in it; anything where there is trust; where you can be welcome and fit. Where are communities being built? We need to get in there and build trust.

Less formally, just having more gatherings, more trust, more community, and more just finding common ground.

More access to health care. How do we get people to try talking to psychiatrist and try counselling. A lot of people that are mentally ill, but no support system. No one to trust.

Could mental health clinics open 20% time to free group counselling?

Resiliency training. How can we help young people know that they do have the resources to be resilient as a young person which can have also impacts for them in adulthood.

People don’t know how to get community started. People should learn small tricks like sitting on your porch and waving at neighbors or inviting neighbors to come over.

Moms aren’t meant to raise kids by themselves. They should do so in community.

Past or present projects that you know of that address the challenges

Hennepin county has a lot of grant dollars trying to build community, but it’s too artificial. It has to be more organic and natural. We have to meet people where they are at. People don’t need another thing to “go to.” Everyone, in their head thinks they are very busy and don’t have time to go to more events.

“I don’t know a lot of things that are organic.” Maybe organic communities would be less advertised.

Many faith-based communities are trying to form community groups, but any group can try to work to build community.

The Walk-In Counselling Center. They work well. Free care helps a lot. It is good for both low-income people where cost is a barrier, but also for people who are hesitant to use mental health resources due to stigma or other reasons because it is free, therefore they don’t have anything to lose by at least trying it.

Any county will have free mental health resources.

Key individuals or organizations needed to help make the change for better health outcomes

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Fairview M Health

Hennepin county is doing a lot of work

Community groups generally

Opinion on how various organizations serving the community get along with each other

There is no collaboration at all. Vicki would love to have a quarterly meeting for mental health leaders. She was working on a project but found out another organization was working on the same thing. “We could have been working together but now we are competitors.” There is a lot of expertise that could be shared.

Opinion of health care worker model for improving community health

Community Health Workers could be great. The navigator line at MHC is like a mix between volunteer and nurse. They are great. Vicki loves the navigator position at MHC because someone who is a full nurse, doc, therapist, etc. can make people nervous whereas a Community Health Worker could be less intimidating.

Limitations would include situations that are beyond the Community Health Worker’s training that would require getting out and calling for help.

Vicki raised concerns about how Community Health Worker would stay up to date on resources. Training can be challenging. MHC does weekly training on resources for their Community Health Workers and it is a lot of work for everyone.

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