State rep to host mental health roundtable

State Rep. Dave Paul secured funding for a pilot program to improve young people’s mental health.

State Rep. Dave Paul secured funding for an Island County pilot program focused on improving mental health outcomes for young people.

Now he wants to hear directly from teenagers about what they think,

He, along with county health officials and community leaders, will be hosting a roundtable discussion with the county’s youth and young adults next Tuesday.

“We wanted to pull in different community groups, and I think young people are oftentimes left out of the political process and don’t know that they can have an impact,” Paul said.

Youth mental health has been on Paul’s radar for a while. Since the beginning of the pandemic, when schools and other social activities closed down or moved to remote venues, pervasive loneliness has exacerbated mental health struggles among young people.

The legislature wanted to provide opportunities for local health experts and community members to develop programs to meet small communities’ needs.

“Our needs are fairly unique because we’re a rural community without enough providers,” Paul said.

He secured a $750,000 provision in the state operating budget for a two-year pilot program — though he hopes to eventually secure funding to extend the program for another two years. The provision will allow Island County health officials and community groups to find sustainable programming to address the mental health needs of youth and young adults that could eventually be replicated in other parts of the state.

“They have been talking about a number of different ideas, and they’re now at the point that they want to hear directly from young people about what services they think would be most valuable,” Paul said.

The roundtable discussion on Oct. 19 will give local youth the opportunity to hear from the core team of county officials working on the initiative, answer questions and provide feedback about what they think the team’s priorities should be.

Paul urges young people in the community to participate.

The discussion will begin at 5 p.m.. Oct 19 on Zoom. Interested parties can register for the event at https://leg-wa-gov.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUrcOCqpjspHdchsdVaEYv8cIYOvEoEpxdq.

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