ALUMNUS Spring 2022 - Mississippi State University

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“Vroom uses everyday moments to help build a child’s brain through simple science-based learning parents can do at home, which encourages and promotes developmental health,” she said. The team is also partnering with Mississippi Families for Kids, which caters to older children, sibling groups and children with special needs, especially those in the adoption or foster care systems. “We are working with MFFK to build a state-level model with regional support. The regional level will be hands-on working with families while the statelevel will focus on connecting the functions of state

one-hour sessions, broken down into smaller segments for younger clientele. Ellzey said the program removed two barriers common in accessing mental health services in rural areas: location and cost. “We bridge a physical gap of not having to travel for services. Many clients, if they even have access to services, must travel long distances to an appointment,” he said. “Also, offering the service for free has been impactful. Often, families who don’t qualify for Medicaid or Medicare are priced out of these services because insurance companies don’t cover them.”

“BEING AT RISK OF OR THINKING YOU COULD LOSE THE FAMILY FARM IS VERY DIFFICULT. THERE ARE LEGITIMATE REASONS WHY PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING IN AGRICULTURE. THROUGH THIS PROGRAM, WE’RE HELPING THOSE WHO WORK IN AGRICULTURE UNDERSTAND HOW TO HELP PEOPLE IN DISTRESS, WHY PEOPLE ARE IN DISTRESS AND HOW TO DESTIGMATIZE BEING IN DISTRESS.” ~ DAVID BUYS agencies and other organizations to make sure a child and family moves seamlessly through the system,” Hanna said. “We’re also making sure parents of children with unique developmental and behavioral needs are a part of our leadership team.” They’ve also trained 15 developmental health fellows, comprised of developmental and behavioral allied health professionals. Hanna said watching goals come to fruition is inspiring. “We’re excited about the collaboration we are seeing across Mississippi’s early childhood system,” she said. “Disparate groups across different fields and institutions work with families to come together in ways I haven’t seen before, which has been a positive development.”


Through funding from a federal relief bill, the MSU Department of Psychology offers free mental telemedicine to Mississippi youth ages 6 to 17, with priority given to those in rural communities, where youth suicide is twice as likely but access to mental health services is lacking. The team, helmed by Michael Nadorff, an associate professor, includes Chris Ellzey and Rebecca Kimbrough as primary clinicians. Since September 2021, 200 Mississippians ages 6 to 17 and their family members have received mental health consultations through the program. The team has helped an additional 200 families connect with other resources. Typically, consultation follows a brief care model of six


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Ellzey is hopeful the team will find alternate funding to continue to fulfill the need once the initial grant runs out. “I think this grant proves you can have a relatively small, targeted response to mental health that’s effective,” Ellzey said. “Compared to a full clinic, this is small. It’s two people fielding most of it, and it shows that with good planning, mental health is scalable. We are reaching clients who otherwise wouldn’t have been served.”


The Department of Psychology and MSU Extension Service also administer mental health first aid training to all MSU Extension agents. Buys said such information is vital, especially in rural communities. He noted that male farmers have the fourth highest suicide rate among men across all industries. Misuse of opioids is also a concern in rural areas. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, three out of four farmers and farm workers reported they have been directly impacted by opioid abuse. Farm owners, managers and workers also have the highest rate of stress-related diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure and ulcers. “Normalizing the conversation about the stress farmers feel is essential. As a land-grant university, we serve farmers on the technical side. We need to serve them in this capacity, too,” Buys said. He pointed out that farmers face stressors including natural disasters, changing markets and work injuries.