MIC Stories: National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC
Featuring the National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC: Special Weekly Series for Tribal Schools as they Reopen Amidst COVID-19
MIC Stories (MHTTCs Implementing Change) feature technical assistance projects that had a significant impact on practice.
From January to June 2020, American Indians and Alaska Natives were 3-5 times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than non-Hispanic whites, and their mortality rate was almost twice as high, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, in August of 2020, the CDC released a report that stressed the importance of a “culturally responsive public health effort that sustains the strengths of AI/AN communities” (Hatcher et al., 2020).
Through their K-12 initiative, the National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC contributed to this response by providing needed guidance as it related to schools serving Native students, mental health, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Special Weekly Series for Tribal Schools as they Reopen Amidst COVID-19 ran from Summer to Fall 2020 to open the conversation for the school community on how they prepared and responded to reopening for the 2020-2021 academic year. The series combined peer-to-peer networking and sharing of resources, and brought on members of the Native school community who were having success in the way they were adapting to COVID-19 restrictions to share their experiences and best practices.
This project was available to anyone interested in the mental health and wellbeing of Native students as they returned to learn amidst COVID. Several consultants and advisors from the National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC presented throughout the series. A total of 1,382 participants attended across 16 sessions, including:
- Social workers
- Addiction Professionals
- Prevention Specialists
What We Did
The National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC held 16 weekly Zoom-based sessions to start the conversation for the school community on how they prepared and responded to reopening for the 2020-2021 academic year. This space provided individuals the opportunity to voice concerns and share ideas as schools reopened, as well as share what was working for those who had already opened. The National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC coordinated and advertised each session, chose professional and qualified speakers, and helped facilitate healthy and beneficial discussion while providing a safe space for all.
The biggest challenge was to find speakers who were not overwhelmed with the burden of having COVID-19 or caring for someone who had the virus.
Participants in each session were asked how beneficial they felt the learning session was, and if they expected to put their takeaways to use.
96% of participants were satisfied with the quality of the sessions and 83% of participants Strongly Agreed or Agreed that they would use the information from the sessions to change current practices.
The series helped bring out the uncertainty that school professionals were experiencing about how to manage the mental health and other impacts of COVID-19. As COVID-19 has changed and continued, there is a continued need for support and collaboration as schools start the 2021 school year. For Fall 2021, the National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC developed another series, School Mental Health: Navigating the New Normal. This 4-part series includes a panel of professionals discussing reopening plans and strategies, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), self-care and burnout prevention, and then a final Q&A with the panelists.
Note: Session 3 & 4 were not recorded due to AV issues
Providing an open and safe-space for individuals to voice concerns, share strategies they’ve implemented that are working, and collaborate and discuss new ideas throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was highly beneficial and well-received by participants. Implications of the project for the field include increased networking among Native school professionals and shared strategies and support for those serving Native students.
The National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is housed in the Native Center for Behavioral Health at the University of Iowa, College of Public Health. The National American Indian and Alaska Native MHTTC works with organizations and treatment practitioners involved in the delivery of mental health services to American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, families, and tribal and urban Indian communities to strengthen their capacity to deliver effective evidence-based and experience-based practices. This includes the full continuum of services spanning mental illness prevention, treatment, and recovery support.
Hatcher SM, Agnew-Brune C, Anderson M et al. (2020). COVID-19 Among American Indian and Alaska. Native Persons – 23 States, January 31-July 3, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1166-1169. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6934e1