Growing Northland brings need for health service program change

While Tri-County Mental Health Services each year provides care for nearly 8,000 Northlanders with mental health and substance abuse needs, services are also evolving to meet new challenges.

“These include both changes within Tri-County, as well as programs in which we collaborate with other area organizations,” CEO Tom Cranshaw explained. “In today’s environment, it’s important that we work with other organizations as much as possible to maximize all of our resources and to bring as much service to bear on the needs of area residents.”

Many of the collaborative efforts have been visible, including the new Platte County DWI Court, which has held its first graduations. Successes were also celebrated at similar graduations in Clay and Ray counties.

Other programs are less visible, however. Some of the most dramatic relate to the increasing recognition nationally that physical and mental health are often inseparable.

“Many with behavioral disorders also have chronic physical disorders,” Cranshaw said. “In response, we’ve ramped up our Health Care Home to better connect Tri-County consumers to physical health care providers.” Tri-County also trained all of its community support workers in wellness coaching and expanded several efforts, including a consumer-run garden and snack shack that now offers health foods throughout the Human Services Building.

Some efforts may be seen only by those with a mental illness, their families and friends. For example, Tri-County is a regional leader in dealing with increasingly widespread, co-occurring mental health and substance disorders. Tri-County’s responses include increased use of “evidence-based” practices. These were among the Tri-County programs recognized with funding from Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

Tri-County also battles one of the greatest challenges facing those with a mental illness: the stigma surrounding mental disorders that often keeps people from seeking treatment that has proven to be successful. Tri-County even applies this to its services for older adults with an older adult coalition and outreach initiatives.

“Mental health care is changing, but the goal remains helping people overcome a challenge and, in many cases, resume their lives,” Cranshaw explained. “That’s what it’s about.” For more information on Tri-County and its services, call (816) 468-0400 or visit

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