North Star Identified for Local Behavioral Health Efforts

After behavioral health emerged as the top concern during the 2022 Stark County Health Improvement Summit, a dedicated group of community leaders, convened by Stark Community Foundation, joined forces to address the issue and seek collaborative solutions to enhance health outcomes. With representation from various sectors across Stark County, the Stark County Behavioral Health Collective embarked on a journey to create a roadmap for fostering a north star for behavioral health: everyone struggles; no one struggles alone.

Amy Krebs, vice president of grants and community initiatives at Stark Community Foundation, highlighted the urgency of the situation, sharing, “During last year's Health Summit, 76% of community leaders expressed concerns about the insufficient mental health services in Stark County. Challenges such as staffing shortages, limited access to care, stigma reduction, affordability and the lack of integration of mental health into other healthcare services were identified.”

As a foundation with a deep community commitment, convening role and collaborative approach, Stark Community Foundation took the lead in bringing a growing network of community partners together to discuss the complex challenge of behavioral health and explore opportunities for collaboration.

Through months of guided discussions and brainstorming sessions, a shared community vision for behavioral health was developed, resulting in the development of nearly 125 health improvement experiments and strategies.

To streamline the process and obtain a more focused approach, facilitators assisted in reducing the extensive list of strategies to a final selection of 10. These 10 strategies were presented for discussion and voting at the 2023 Health Summit.


At the Health Summit, local participants chose five of the selected strategies to address the priority health need of mental health access, as identified in the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment.

“Working with entities across various sectors and through data collection, the five selected strategies will be utilized to monitor incremental change in improving mental health in Stark County,” said Dr. Anju Mader, chief integration officer at Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery. “We encourage agencies and organizations to explore the 120+ collective work strategies to address and improve mental health access. While no one strategy is definitive, collaborating on concurrent multiple strategies can have a cumulative effect.”

This year’s strategies include:

  • No cell phone usage in schools to improve mood and focus. In May 2023, the US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on the impact of social media use on the mental health of youth. The advisory highlighted concerns about the harmful effects of social media, including exposure to violent and sexual content, bullying, compromised sleep and limited personal interactions. The Surgeon General emphasized the lack of evidence supporting the safety of social media for young people and the growing evidence linking its use to mental health issues. To address this national youth mental health crisis, our proposed strategy is to implement a “no cell phone usage in schools to improve mood and focus” policy. This approach aims to minimize students' exposure to social media during the school day, with the hypothesis that it will lead to improved mood, increased attentiveness and a better learning environment.
  • Guaranteed funding for addressing non-treatment barriers for behavioral health access. When individuals who are already struggling with mental health issues face non-treatment barriers to seeking clinical care, it can further increase their stress and anxiety levels. To address this problem, our strategy aims to help individuals overcome these barriers, such as transportation and childcare. Resources will be made available through various avenues to alleviate these barriers and ensure easier access to necessary healthcare services.
  • Behavioral health support for school staff within their school district. Our school districts are facing the challenging responsibility of not only educating students but also addressing their behavioral and mental health challenges. Furthermore, schools are now extending their support to help families meet basic needs. As a result, the school staff is experiencing significant burdens. To address this issue, behavioral health support will be provided specifically for staff members. This support will include education, clinical services and non-clinical, evidence-based programming.
  • Formalized partnerships between behavioral health providers and medical offices/urgent care centers for streamlined and efficient care. With this strategy, patients who have been identified by their primary care office or local urgent care centers as having mental health struggles and requiring mental health services will receive priority in scheduling appointments at behavioral health partner agencies.
  • Digital technology platform to unify health and human services through shared data.
    Collaborative partners from the health and human services sectors will come together to utilize a data entry platform that serves as a unified record of care for our most vulnerable populations. This platform will enable screenings to assess basic needs and facilitate connections to community resources. By doing so, the platform will generate comprehensive and up-to-date data. This data will help identify improvements in individuals' health outcomes, as well as highlight any gaps in resources and services. This valuable information will allow for better allocation of resources and improved support for those in need.


“As part of our Community Health Improvement Plan, these strategies need support from everyone in the community, not just agencies or programs” said Kay Conley, director of administration and support services for the Stark County Health Department. “Any agency or individual can support and adopt some of the processes, behaviors or systems under one or more of these strategies. First, people need to be aware of and get behind the strategy, and then they have to figure out how they can support the work on a personal, agency or systems change level.”

Each strategy will be supported by a working committee consisting of dedicated volunteers who are committed to advancing that particular strategy. If you are interested in participating in one or more of these working groups, reach out to Conley at or 330-451-1446.


Dr. Anju Mader
Chief Integration Officer
Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery

Kay Conley
Director of Administration and Support Services
Stark County Health Department

Amy Krebs
Vice President of Grants and Community Initiatives
Stark Community Foundation

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