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By Forrest Hershberger
Publisher, Sun-Telegraph 

Riding for Mental Health Awareness

Pony Express Riders Stop in Sidney

 

On Thursday morning, May 20, a rumbling of excitement entered Sidney from the west. The sound of thundering horsepower was the indicator the Pony Express Riders were approaching Sidney.

They were riding with a purpose, to make people aware of children's mental health.

“For the past 14 years, these dedicated motorcyclists have been a key partner in raising awareness for children’s mental health,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “Half of all lifetime mental illness begins at the average age of 14 and three-quarters by age 24. For a young person with symptoms of a behavioral health disorder, the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it can be. We need to continue to normalize conversations about mental health and ensure youth and families have access to prevention and treatment services.”

The number of motorcyclists on the ride varies with the day. Holly Stevens, Pony Express promotion and site visit coordinator, said seven riders were consistent through the tour. Typically, riders will take part for a day or so; some start late in the ride and others stop before the ride is completed. The goal is still to recognize the need for mental health services to children.


“We're just getting the letters we need for recognition,” Stevens said.

The ride started Wednesday, May 19, in Scottsbluff and will finish at the Nebraska State Capitol on Saturday, May 22. The ride focuses on the message that mental health is fundamental to overall health, according to a press release from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.


The Pony Express reference is borrowed in part because riders will be collecting letters about children's mental health written by youth, their families and supporters. The letters will be delivered to the State Capitol.

Stops in Sidney Thursday included Family 4Ward at 1105 Illinois St., and Kids Corner at 627 Toledo St. Family 4Ward, Inc., is a program dedicated to providing compassionate, quality services through evidence-based practices.

The program's strength lays in that its staff does what is best for the children and families within the program, according to the panhandlepartnership.com website.

The Department of Health and Human Services is developing a three-digit number for suicide prevention, the”911” for mental health. The Nebraska DHHS received the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's 988 State Planning Grant through Vibrant Emotional Health. The grant provides for DHHS and system partners to take part in developing projected infrastructure needs, volume growth and access to the lifeline's 988 number.


The initial 988 draft is due Aug. 30, 2021. The final plan is due to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration by Dec. 1, 2021.

 

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