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Action team meetings are next step in Blaine youth mental well-being initiative

Updated: 2 days ago

As the next step in the Communities for Youth Blaine County Initiative, Action Team meetings will be held March 6 and 7 to examine potential solutions based on data gathered in October and a subsequent series of community meetings in December.

The initiative is a collaboration between the Blaine County School District, St. Luke’s Health System and Boise-based Communities for Youth and is aimed at improving the mental health and well-being of young people in the Wood River Valley.

It’s a prevention-focused effort “to build community capacity to recognize and address risk and protective factors in young people’s lives,” said Megan Smith, founding director of Communities for Youth and an associate professor at Boise State University’s School of Public and Population Health.

Based on the data from surveys taken by 70% of local high school students, Smith said most kids are doing well.

However, for those struggling, the data narrowed in on three primary driving factors: a lack of sleep, lack of meaningful social connections and lack of a trusted adult.

Of the 1,219 middle and high school BCSD students surveyed, 27% reported moderate to severe depression.

What was striking, said BCSD Superintendent Jim Foudy at the December meetings, was an apparent relationship between sleep and depression. Of the students who reported getting six hours or less of sleep, 51% reported moderate to severe depression. Of the students getting seven hours or more of sleep, 20% reported moderate to severe depression.

At the March meetings, Smith said the intent is to present some evidence-based approaches and options to address the reported lack of connectiveness and lack of sleep, and then to get feedback from the community on what approaches seem most appealing, effective and doable.

Smith, who works across the state, said she can propose approaches other counties have taken, but a key part of the initiative is tailoring each approach to the needs, strengths and other characteristics of the individual communities.

“The goal after this meeting is to then have a clear idea about what ideas resonated with the community."Megan Smith Communities for Youth founding director

The March meetings will begin with a recap of the data and a short presentation on potential solutions, Smith said, but will be primarily held in a conversational format.

“The goal after this meeting is to then have a clear idea about what ideas resonated with the community,” she said.

Smith and her team are also holding focus groups with students to gather feedback about what young people identify as the best solutions.

The initiative is part of a five-year plan, which includes annual surveys to measure any shifts in the data.

“We know we aren’t going to solve all the problems in one year,” Smith said. But she said continued monitoring and community brainstorming are an effective strategy to see where changes are actually being made and where different approaches might be warranted.

The meetings are open to everyone, and dinner will be served.

The Action Team meetings will be held on March 6 from 6:30-8 p.m. at Carey Public School, and March 7 from 6-7:30 p.m. at Wood River High School in Hailey.

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