Leslie Shan and Ted Rogalski stand on stage holding a plaque

Leslie Shan, MHFA Instructor at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital, Olney, and Ted Rogalski, Administrator at Genesis Medical Center, Aledo and 2023 ICAHN Board President

The Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN) announced its 2023 “Community Project” winners, including Carle Richland Memorial Hospital, Olney, for their Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Program, during the organization’s 20th Anniversary Annual Conference held November 28 and 29 at the I-Hotel and Conference Center, Champaign.

They are joined in this honor with HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital, Highland, with their Overdose Prevention and Recovery Access Program.

The Community Award recognizes ICAHN member hospitals that have implemented a program that strengthened the health and well-being of their communities and builds a partnership with community organizations such as schools, elderly services, children’s groups, prevention groups, or faith-based organizations.

Carle Richland Memorial Hospital has partnered with the Richland County School District to provide mental health awareness and skill-based training to tenth-grade students.

This program was developed in response to the unique risks regarding mental health to individuals who reside in rural communities. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 49.5 percent of adolescents between the ages of 13-18 live with a mental health disorder.

The MHFA course takes place over three sessions. In each session, students learn how to recognize signs and symptoms of mental health and substance use challenges within themselves and their peers. Students are taught how to start a conversation about these topics, how to respond, and how to seek help. After each session, students fill out an exit ticket where they are asked about how they are feeling and if they are experiencing any concerns they want to discuss. Lesie Shan, MHFA Instructor, partners with school counselors and provides follow up to any student that requests a check-in.

“By bringing Mental Health First Aid to this age group, Leslie is providing adolescents with the tools and resources they need for their own mental health, as well as learning to identify challenges in their peers,” said Brandy Murbarger, Quality Assurance Manager at Carle Richland Memorial Hospital.

To date, Shan has trained approximately 1,300 individuals in MHFA.

“It’s a great program to have here, and one we’ll definitely support,” said Darrell Houchin, Principal at Richland County High School.

Shan is planning on expanding the MHFA program to second graders, where the focus is to teach emotional awareness and ways to respond to emotions through the book series, “A Little Spot of Emotion.” Parents of children in kindergarten through fifth grade also are currently offered mental health education.

Located in Princeton, IL, ICAHN is a network of 59 small, rural hospitals dedicated to strengthening the operations of its member hospitals through collaboration. The organization is composed of Illinois hospitals who have earned critical access hospital designation by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and is recognized nationally for its work with rural healthcare, administering several state, federal, and private healthcare programs.