The National Institute of Mental Health reports that almost 18 percent of American adults, or an estimated 43.4 million people, have been diagnosed with a mental illness within the past year.
The Missouri Prevention Center is now beginning its tenth year of providing a viable solution to this national epidemic: prevention science. The concept is simple: a structured and systematic public health framework offers mental health professionals the tools to evaluate populations and use prevention science to not only assist the individual, but the community around that individual.
The Missouri Prevention Center was founded in 2007 by MU College of Education faculty members Wendy Reinke and Keith Herman, starting with school and counseling psychology faculty and several graduate students and expanding to approximately 100 people today.
The culmination of the prevention science philosophy is most transparent in the latest project, the Family Access Center of Excellence (FACE) of Boone County which is co-led by MPC Associate Director, Dr. Aaron Thompson. This one-of-a-kind effort combines schools, law enforcement, courts and other mental health services to provide access to services to assist the entire family. FACE also works to support the quality of mental care that is offered throughout the community.
“The goal has been to reduce the number of youth ‘in the system,’ so that these young people can be successful in school and have the tools to succeed,” said Herman, a co-principal investigator for FACE. “We identify the concerns through family systems assessments, develop an action plan, and follow through with case management and monitoring.”
Another recent success story is the Boone County Schools Mental Health Coalition (the Coalition), which began in 2015, and brings all the school districts within the country under an umbrella of prevention science at the school-wide level, grade-level or with the individual. The Coalition helps schools monitor the social and emotional health of all youth in Boone County three times a year and provide services for youth who are showing early risk factors for future problems. The information collected as part of the Coalition is also designed to help schools reflect on the broader school culture and strategic investments that can be made to efficiently create nurturing and effective environments.
Collectively, the projects of the Missouri Prevention Center are intended to bring science to bear to solve societal problems. One part of the solution will be getting the community to think of mental health in a broader way. Rather than situating mental health problems as solely existing within a person, FACE and the Coalition are encourage people to think about how social environments contribute to these problems and can be part of the solution to reducing the prevalence of these concerns.
The faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and staff who work at the Missouri Prevention Center all share a common passion and commitment to improving the lives of children and families.