What was once a discussion and strategic goal among members of Summit Pacific Medical Center staff quickly evolved into a plan to identify and establish relations with community partners. More specifically, with those who share a commitment to creating measurable improvements in the health and well-being of local youth. The result was the East Grays Harbor Youth Collaborative: A long-term vision of creating a safe, encouraging, healthy, and positive future for the youngest citizens in our county.
“Our youth are our future,” Summit Pacific’s Director of Foundation & Community Development Brad Thomas says. “Here at Summit Pacific, our vision is to help create the healthiest community in the nation. Currently, out of the 39 counties, Grays Harbor ranks about 36 in most health status outcomes. So, that is what is really inspiring us and it’s our bold vision. We believe if we want to have systemic change we have to start with our youth.”
East Grays Harbor Youth Collaborative is Formed
In order to move that strategic goal forward, about 50 community leaders were invited to a meeting of the Youth Summit in early 2023. A few meetings later, the core areas of focus became clear and the group name was changed to East Grays Harbor Youth Collaborative.
With long-term goals in mind, five break-off groups have formed based on their priority areas of focus: expand mental health services for youth; build a youth resource; increase extracurricular activities and safe spaces; job readiness & college prep and increasing childcare & after school programs.
“We then identified our near-term goals,” mental health, extracurricular activities, and a youth resource hub,” Thomas says. “Those are the ones we are putting our efforts into at this time. We are in the planning stages, and each group has action items they are trying to accomplish in the next 6 to 12 months.”
Local Leaders Focus on Physical and Mental Health of Grays Harbor Youth
In addition to the short-term goals, there are also three- to five-year benchmarks. The most active group, according to Thomas, is made up of the Youth Resource leaders. Their goal is to establish a list of fun, safe events taking place in the area and create a website or mobile app to make it easier for youth to find those activities.
Mental health is also a priority, with Thomas estimating at least 40 to 50% of area youth struggle with mental health challenges.
“We are understaffed in this area in our county, and we at Summit Pacific are investing in a new mental health clinic,” Thomas shares. “Behavioral Health does a great job, but this is a huge need in our community, actually any county in the country. It’s being done elsewhere, and we need to find a way to bring those ideas to East Grays Harbor County.”
Focus Includes Grays Harbor Community or Youth Center
There’s also been a lot of conversation in East Grays Harbor County about the need for either a community center or a youth center.
“What do elementary, middle school and high school youth need who are not involved with athletics or other programs do after school?” Thomas asks. “There is currently not a safe spacefor youth to go and hang out after school or on weekends, be around positive role models, receive mentorship, and get help with homework if needed.”
Thinking outside the box, the East Grays Harbor Youth Collaborative members are committed to best practices as they decide together how to bring this type of center and services to local youth.
“We’ve met with Elma High School students and other youth around town, and we received some good feedback,” Thomas says. “If our youth understand the value of staying busy, eating healthy, and being engaged in community activities, it affects the entire community. Many times, as parents, we go along because that’s what the kids are doing.”
In 5 or 10 years, local youth will be adults, Thomas points out. The East Grays Harbor Youth Collaborative members want to support those youth who are struggling the most by giving them a hand up, making sure they know someone believes in them, and creating a sense of belonging.
“It all starts with our youth, no matter what the age group, elementary, middle school, or high school,” Thomas says.
Summit Pacific Medical Center Teaches Preventative Care
The folks at Summit Pacific Medical Center are experts when it comes to preventative care and the overall wellness of local citizens. Helping to bring together community leaders to establish the East Grays Harbor Youth Collaborative addresses each of these categories.
“We are focused on preventative care for adults, youth, and the health of the overall population in Grays Harbor County,” Thomas says.
He stresses the importance of ensuring everyone in the county, no matter what age, has access to ways that help each individual become healthier during their youth and into their adult years. In turn, Thomas says, this focus will likely help future generations.
“At the end of the day, youth are our future, so we want to make sure we are investing in them to have the best and brightest future,” Thomas says. “We want to make sure the environment of support we have for our youth – programs, activities, services – is helping them be successful as young people. Later, whether they are going on to either college or living wage jobs, it’s about giving them the tools to being successful leaders and community members five, ten, twenty years from now.”
Get Involved Today with East Grays Harbor Youth Collaborative
It takes a village to make this vision a reality. There is an ongoing need for more community involvement with the East Grays Harbor Youth Collaborative.
“If you are a parent, a coach, a community member that has a passion for youth, and haven’t been involved yet, please come join us,” Thomas says.
For more information, contact Brad Thomas at 425-615-9585 or email@example.com.