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Celebrating our Impact: Sussex County Health Coalition

People gathered inside a conference hall having a discussion with the speakers

For 11 years, the Sussex County Health Coalition (SCHC) has engaged the entire community in a collaborative family-focused effort to improve the health outcomes in Sussex County.

SCHC, a DANA member, has over 174 partner organizations and 400+ individual members working towards advocacy, awareness, and action.  SCHC hosts multi-sector committees addressing health from different lenses. Monthly, the committees engage community partners and stakeholders to identify critical needs in the areas of early learning, clinical health, behavioral health, social health, and youth engagement.  SCHC’s coalition model for community engagement applies collective impact principals for their success.

Their collective impact work can be seen most recently in their behavioral health activities to improve access for children to treatment. Three years ago, the Behavioral Health Task Group, a sub-committee of SCHC, identified the need for increased access to counseling services, due to perceived excessive wait-times for children to receive treatment.  Reasons for this ranged from a lack of communication between the schools and the behavioral health service community, inconsistent systems within districts to identify and refer to appropriate levels of treatment, insufficient capacity to set up the systems needed to address the number of children with behavioral health needs.

SCHS had the technical expertise to help design and set up the infrastructure to address the above challenges to wait-times. It identified a best-practice national model to replicate and support systemic change in the districts.  Through its advocacy, it sought partners to help with the transformation, which included financial funders, such as Highmark, and school districts.

The results: the Sussex County school districts who actively engaged have seen a significant increase in referrals for mental health services, a 33% reduction in treatment wait time, streamlined referral systems district wide, and greater access to high quality, accountable mental health professionals that see students on site. To date, over 1,000 children have benefitted positively from the SCHC’s school-based mental health reform.

This community-based collaborative has been viewed as a model statewide for district wide mental health reform. Sussex County Health Coalition’s had had a lasting impact on the state by bringing together stakeholders who could identify, address and solve community-based problems.

Peggy Geisler, Project Director summed up their success “we are successful when we coalesce partners to serve Sussex County more holistically and in doing so, reduce replication, and increase collaboration.”