The tragic loss of multiple young members of our community in the fall of 2021 has affected our community profoundly. There are also many indicators of a broad level of mental health distress among our youth.
Local primary care and behavioral health providers report significant increases in mental health related office visits (e.g. anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation). School administrators report significant increase in behavioral suspensions related to impaired coping skills. Direct reports from students, parents, and faculty also suggest increased levels of anxiety and depression.
Potential underlying factors include COVID-related social disruption, social media influences, decreased (general) social cohesion/increased divisiveness, and impaired family support. Despite many acts of compassion and support, some youth feel that “nothing’s changed” and “we don’t feel heard or supported.”
There is emerging consensus that:
Immediate responses are important, but unlikely to change overall mental health status of youth
Absent significant steps, broad emotional suffering will persist and more tragedies will likely occur
Our schools did not cause these problems and lack capacity and resources to solve them alone
Effective intervention will require the coordinated efforts of youth, schools, and the community
No framework currently exists in Transylvania County to make a broad collaborative effort focused on youth mental health feasible and sustainable
In December 2021, concerned community members began working together to form a broad coalition of youth, school, and community leaders. The goal was to facilitate an aligned and effective community-wide response that both allows and encourages spontaneous responses and develops a strategic framework capable of making evidence-based mental health support programs and resources broadly available to our youth.
This collaborative is guided by principles of the Collective Impact Model for Transformational Change, including a shared vision and agenda, common measurements , mutually-reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone (admin/program) support.
PHASE I, in December 2021 and January 2022, secured a commitment of support from 3 lead organizations, activated a Steering Team, identified strategic imperatives, and established a data framework.
PHASE II, in January-May 2022, Steering Team members practiced collaboration and developed tools and processes that would guide the group. Work began on selected projects connected to each of our selected focus areas.
PHASE III, beginning in June 2022, will assess outcomes and impact, hardwire successful approaches, determine ways to continue and/or expand successful projects, build long-term resources and support, and develop and communicate a sustainable long-term wellness plan.
Our Focus Areas
The TC STRONG Steering Team has identified the following strategic areas of focus:
Community Awareness, Education, and De-stigmatization
Empowerment & Connection
Access to Support & Care
These strategy areas all work to advance our near-term vision that every youth in Transylvania County feels heard and supported, as well as our long-term vision that every youth in Transylvania County feels confident and secure in connection, purpose, and hope.
Work is already underway on projects that aim to:
Raise awareness of mental health-related topics,
Provide skills training to enhance mental and emotional wellbeing and address mental health concerns,
Strengthen student connections with caring adults, and
Ease referrals for mental and behavioral health treatment.
Steering team meetings have also included brief trainings for its delegates on the collective impact model, collaborating and working together across organizations, and measuring the impact of programs.
Since December 2021, participants in this initiative have also:
Assisted with suicide prevention awareness events and trainings at school and community venues
Hosted faculty listening sessions at county high schools to gather feedback about concerns and needs
Designed, printed, and distributed yard signs to provide encouragement and hope to community members
Our Lead Organizations
The TC STRONG Leadership Team consists of representatives from 3 lead organizations that provide committed leadership to the group's work.
Erin Drew, Executive Director
Missy Ellenberger, Director of Curriculum, CTE, and Student Services
Elaine Russell, Health Director
Rik Emaus, TC STRONG Coordinator
Our Steering Team
TC STRONG's Steering Team works to advise, support, and coordinate the efforts of cross-functional workgroups. This group includes representatives from mental health clinicians and therapists, county middle and high schools, non-profits and faith-based organizations, public health, local government, parents, and high school students.
This steering team includes representatives from The Family Place, Transylvania County Schools, Transylvania Public Health, the Transylvania County Youth Support Collaborative, Blue Ridge Health/Meridian, Blue Zones Brevard, Brevard Academy, Hendersonville Pediatrics, Transylvania County DSS, and Young Life, as well as parents and high school students.
Leah Bush, Community Delegate, The Family Place - Rosman
Ashley Dickson, Faculty Delegate, Brevard Middle School
Erin Drew, Lead Organization Representative, The Family Place
Ted Duncan, Principal Delegate, Brevard Academy
Missy Ellenberger, Lead Organization Representative, Transylvania County Schools
Rik Emaus, Lead Organization Representative, TC STRONG
Denise Gonzalez, Community Delegate, The Family Place
Barbara Grimm, Principal Delegate, Davidson River School
Sarah Hankey, Wellness Delegate, Blue Zones Project Brevard
Adria Hardy, Faculty Delegate, Brevard High School
Jen Heatherly, Communications Team, Transylvania County Schools
Adonai Jacques, Student Delegate, Homeschool
Carrie Koppin, Homeschool Delegate
Phil Latter, School-Based Therapy Delegate, Meridian/Blue Ridge Health
Cora McCall, Student Delegate, Brevard High School
Johnathan Meeks, Student Delegate, Rosman High School
Shanaia Powell, Social Worker Delegate, Rosman Middle/High School
Elaine Russell, Lead Organization Representative, Transylvania Public Health
Tara Rybka, Communications Team, Transylvania Public Health
Stacey Seefeldt, Counselor Delegate, Brevard Academy
Sarah Shawver, Counselor Delegate, Rosman High School
Elijah Simon, Student Delegate, Brevard High School
Scott Strickler, Principal Delegate, Brevard High School
Greg Stroup, Law Enforcement Delegate, Transylvania County Sheriff's Office / School Resource Officers
Becca Swanger, Mental Health Services Delegate, Meridian/Blue Ridge Health
Amanda Vanderoef, Government Delegate, Transylvania County Department of Social Services
Trinity Wilbanks, Student Delegate, Rosman High School
Elizabeth Williams, Clinical Therapist Delegate, Hendersonville Pediatrics
Julie Workman, Parent Delegate, Brevard High School PTSO
Our TC STRONG Network currently consists of a little over 150 community members from various sectors.
This group was originally established as the Transylvania County Youth Support Collaborative in 2019, and focused on immediate impact projects during COVID-19.
The Network meets on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 12 noon. Interested community members can email us or complete our interest form to be added to the mailing list for meeting information.
Our Community Partners
The following businesses and organizations are active supporters of TC STRONG and youth mental health in Transylvania County. Thank you!
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina | Blue Zones Project Brevard - Powered by Pisgah Health Foundation | Brevard Academy: A Public Charter School
Brevard Rotary Club | CARE Coalition | The Cindy Platt Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County | Connect | El Centro Comunitario Hispano Americano
The Haven of Transylvania County | Hendersonville Pediatrics, PA | Isaac Homes Youth Shelter and Rosman Youth Support Center | Jameson's Joy
Keystone Camp, Inc. | Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd | Mountain Roots | NextGen Program | Smart Start of Transylvania County
Through the Trees | Transylvania Christian Ministry- Sharing House | Transylvania Economic Alliance | Truventure Enterprises | Vaya Health