Prioritizing Mental and Physical Health in South Utah County


By Mike Mendenhall – Spanish Fork City
Utah and Utah County lead the nation in a host of great statistics, ranging from economic development, opportunity, and quality of life. We’re near the top in other sectors that are no so great, and that we need to change. It’s incumbent on all of us to help affect that change.

I am part of the local government in Spanish Fork, where we justifiably budget millions of dollars annually for the public safety, health and welfare of the citizenry. It’s one of the most basic services a government is tasked to provide. It’s one of our highest priorities just as it is in other cities and towns.

In the town of “Pride and Progress” we’re realizing mental health is an important component to the overall public safety and welfare as well.

We’ve labeled it the “Active and Healthy Movement” that commits members of the movement to be more active and healthy, both physically and mentally. Some segments of the program are simple and very low or no cost. For instance:

We’ve created a positive Facebook page, where citizens, health professionals, and local businesses share insights and best practices related to living a healthy life, along with giveaways sponsored by businesses or the city. It’s been a great avenue for local businesses to advertise and for residents to provide inspiration for each other.
We’ve built an all-weather, outdoor exercise arena at our most popular park, just steps away from our seven-mile trail system for people of all ages to exercise together in fresh air surrounded by a river, grass, trees, and ballfields.

We held a free Community Health Fair with booths of local businesses and health organizations that offered free services and information on how our families could be healthier, again both physically and mentally. People came for free hot dogs, giveaways and a few good speakers. But they left with tools and information to improve their lives.
We’ve created an Active and Healthy Board that meets quarterly, whose members range from volunteers, licensed medical professionals, civic and religious leaders, to family members of suicide victims.

We’ve provided suicide prevention training to our employees called QPR Training. Modeled after CPR Training, QPR gives trainees the ability to help someone considering self-harm. We will soon begin offering the course to local businesses and residents.
We’ve extended the offer for people struggling with mental illness or depression to reach out to the city. If they have nowhere else to reach, we will refer them to the right place and cover initial costs.

Two years ago, we were fortunate to receive grant funds from Intermountain Healthcare through the Utah League of Cities and Towns to help start our movement. Those funds are being expended to bless the lives of the folks in south Utah County, along with other grants that have been awarded to the County in conjunction with ours. We’ve done some good work, but have more to do.

I encourage leaders to shine a light on this growing problem, prioritize it, and work with your communities towards solutions. The programs and methods don’t have to be perfect, but don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Get started, the lives of our friends and neighbors are too important.