Stilly Valley Health Connections Prioritizes Mental Health in Rural Communities

Stilly Valley Health Connections Envisions a Community Where Residents Achieve Optimal Health and Wellness

Still Valley HC
The small towns of Darrington and Arlington are tucked into the Stillaguamish River Valley in the Central Cascade Mountains of Washington State. These towns once thrived on lumber and farming, but now local populations tend to work in manual labor service industries. Residents in these rural areas tend to be lower-income and to be at risk for certain chronic health conditions.

Stilly Valley Health Connections is an organization that helps to provide healthcare for these remote communities. “We were concerned about keeping healthcare in our district long-term,” said Ardis Schmiege, Superintendent/CEO of Stilly Valley Health Connections.

Beginning in late 2016, the Stilly Valley Health Connections board came together to invision a community where residents achieve optimal health and wellness. The organization focuses on three things: mental health, drugs/alcohol abuse prevention, and promoting health and wellness.

In the Spring of 2018 Schmiege and her team began to work with the Arlington and Darrington school districts in prioritizing mental health. A local counselor donated a day of her business and offered to help kids on-site in the Arlington elementary school with mental health and counseling services.

Later that year the program expanded to Darrington and added another counselor. Now all Arlington and Darrington schools have access to counselors one day a week thanks to the efforts of and funding from Stilly Valley Health Connections.

In 2019, Stilly Valley Health Connections helped fund a community-led collaborative health and well-being survey that gathered valuable data about the health and well-being of Stilly Valley residents. The survey results help community organizations set priorities for local well-being initiatives.

Since Covid-19, the Stilly Valley Health Connections model has moved online. And even this has come with challenges because not everyone in the rural river valleys of the Cascades has access to internet infrastructure.

Now all of the school counselors help students remotely, via telehealth. This has been somewhat of a challenge in the town of Darrington, where the internet coverage is spotty; some student counseling has to be done over the phone.

As we all learn how to navigate post-pandemic life, it’s inspiring to see Stilly Valley Health Connections adapting to help communities in need during an unprecedented time.

Learn more about the Stilly Valley Health Connections initiatives here.


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