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Teaming up to Address Mental Health

A new mental health initiative is coming soon for some Mercy Housing Northwest (MHNW) residents. Thanks to a $536,798 grant from community partner, HealthierHere, MHNW is rolling out new programming to seven MHNW communities focused on mental and behavioral health.

HealthierHere is a King County nonprofit that works with other area nonprofits helping to implement a system that supports health and wellness for everyone.

Mental Health in a Post-Pandemic World

Mercy Housing residents are our north stars.

Talk about mental health and self-care has been increasing for years. For many, something shifted during the pandemic and continues to as we learn to navigate in a post-pandemic world. In fact, according to the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF), anxiety screening is now recommended for all adults under the age of 65.

For MHNW Resident Service Manager Vy Le, health and wellness had been on her radar for even longer. “Over the past few years, I have focused more and more on the health & wellness of residents,” she recently shared. “We always think about how to use a grant to support residents, but we wanted to support staff also because they are experiencing burnout, PTSD, and need support too.”

Familiar with a local nonprofit, HealthierHere, Vy attended one of their networking events.  Vy saw an opportunity that would help address mental and behavioral health at the seven properties she oversees. MHNW had received funding from HealthierHere a few years before the pandemic, and the grant came up while at the networking event. Vy returned to her office and, along with the MHNW team, wasted no time in applying for the HealthierHere Grant, which helps fund mental and behavioral health programs.

Mercy Housing Northwest Receives Healthier Here Grant

With the news that MHNW was awarded the grant, Vy and her staff went to work identifying how the funding could best be used. The team partnered with WAPI, a King County provider offering outpatient substance abuse treatment primarily to people of color, who will help implement mental and behavioral health support to both residents and staff in a culturally responsive way. WAPI will also provide health and wellness training for staff.

While plans are still being finalized, WAPI will begin to offer workshops and training to the seven participating MNHW communities in October 2022.

When Vy talks about the frontline staff, she notes that this programming is for the entire site staff – from property manager to maintenance to resident services staff to case managers and more. She understands that the past two years have impacted everyone deeply and is committed to making sure these new programs are open to all.

Vy Le, Resident Services Manager, Mercy Housing Northwest

After holding a focus group and sending out a survey to both staff and residents, Vy and her team are preparing to introduce this new programming officially. “It was really important that we hear the needs and gauge the interest from staff and residents.”

The program will roll out for both adult and youth residents simultaneously.

Understanding Resident Needs

Vy has gotten to know Mercy Housing Northwest residents very well over the years. She knows when they are having good days and when their days aren’t so great.  Mercy Housing is home to very diverse communities. Vy adds, “we tailor our programming to feed the cultural need throughout the state (WA). We have a lot of communities with different cultures, like African culture, Latino, Asian, and the Middle East. And they all have different wariness.”

Looking ahead toward a healthy future

She continues to describe the seven Mercy Housing communities she oversees, “some families here are worried about their family members and friends in their home countries, but there is nothing about the civil wars in those countries in the media here.” Vy noticed that some of these families were hiding their emotions until somebody asked them and that they could express what they were feeling. “That’s what I can hope that we can try to tailor these activities to feed those needs.”

When the HealthierHere Grant ends next year, Vy hopes to be able to share the lessons learned from this innovative grant with HealthierHere other nonprofit organizations focused on affordable housing The overall goal is to show that because of these new health and wellness programs addressing mental and behavioral health and other more specific needs of both residents and staff, we are creating healthier communities for those who call Mercy Housing home.