In September 2016, Grant Seaver and Ryan Ainsworth, both 13-year-old students at Treasure Mountain Junior High School, died within two days of each other due to synthetic opioid overdoses.
Their deaths shocked the whole community. In response, over the next few weeks, the school district hosted a series of meetings to discuss ways to prevent anything similar from ever happening again. But they realized more and more that this wasn’t just a school issue. It was an issue the whole community would have to grapple with.
So, in November 2016, the school superintendent and other key leaders came to Park City Community Foundation and said, “Can you bring the community together to help solve this huge challenge?”
The Community Foundation board and staff had already begun to foresee a potentially larger role in convening around big issues. The plan at the time was to grow the fundraising and staffing slowly and then dive into that expanded role a year or so later. But the urgent need and motivation in the community meant that this issue couldn’t wait. Executive Director Katie Wright and I looked at each other, took a deep breath, and said, “Let’s do this!”
While still handling my existing tasks (grantmaking, nonprofit education, Live PC Give PC, and more), I took on the role of startup convener of a new coalition. Early on, the Summit County Health Department agreed to serve as the long-term institutional home of the effort. By the end of December, a small group of community leaders had planned out the first steps. In January 2017, a new steering committee had its first meeting and created the Summit County Mental Wellness Alliance. Subcommittees were formed to figure out how to increase prevention, mental health, and substance use services and to make sure those services would be equitable and accessible to all. By August 2017, a multiyear strategic plan had been drafted, and the plan was approved for implementation before the end of that year.
I was amazed and heartened at what could result from our having agreed to take this project on. Thanks to the Summit County Mental Wellness Alliance, its many key partners, and a comprehensive strategic plan, our community has made huge strides in improving mental wellness outcomes. And subsequently, the Community Foundation has built further capacity that has allowed us to become the community convener around additional issues such as social equity, early childhood, and climate.
Sometimes meaningful change results from taking a deep breath, and deciding to say yes.
Posted in: Mental Wellness