Last September, Joan Silver was among the 60-plus behavioral health experts and community members who met at Sahuarita Town Hall to talk about mental health resources.

Everyone at the “Shining a Light on Behavioral Health” event agreed, Green Valley and Sahuarita need more service providers to treat children, families and seniors.

"It just really hit me," said Silver, a licensed family and marriage therapist. "There's one therapist for every 5,000 people in the Green Valley/Sahuarita area. I have teenaged grandchildren and in my counseling practice I see kids and there are just so many issues."

She routinely sees children who are dealing with a host of problems, including family issues, trauma, anxiety and bullying – all things she said can ultimately lead to substance abuse. So, she decided to do something about it. 

Silver, along with Jill Fabian, a licensed clinical social worker and substance abuse counselor, formed Serenity First Prevention and Support Coalition to provide education, outreach and resources. They received a three-year, $405,000 grant from the Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family's parent commission.

With the funding, the coalition will sponsor regular events and six-week workshops to address topics that significantly affect children and their families.

Faith-based organizations, the school districts and other community groups will help identify the topics and help get the word out about the events and resources, Silver said.

In addition to the workshops, Silver and Fabian want to create a teen coalition and a teen center.

"It's all about connecting. That's all we really want to do is connect with others, that's when we're at our happiest," Silver said.

The coalition has met with members of the Sahuarita Teen Advisory Council to get their views, she said. The coalition will soon also host an event with teens and their parents to get their thoughts on what needs attention.

The coalition's first event will take place Aug. 24, with the showing of the documentary, "The Other Side of Cannabis."

The film's director and producer, Jody Belsher, will introduce the 60-minute film and a Question and Answer session will be held afterward with licensed therapists and community leaders. Resource tables will also be set up.

Too many teenagers don't realize marijuana has been proven to have a negative impact on developing brains, Silver said. The human brain doesn't stop developing until the age of 25, she said.

Jamie Rogers, a coalition member and Silver's daughter, said kids are getting the wrong message about marijuana.

"Marijuana has started to become a societal norm so the kids are seeing that OK, there's a CBD shop over here, you can go get a medical card there, and in California they've made it legal and in Colorado they've made it legal," Rogers said. "The kids are thinking 'What's the big deal?'"

The movie answers that question, they said.

"It is very interesting, it's very relatable. It's very personal, but it's also factual and it talks about the science of what's happening," Rogers said.

Silver expressed her gratitude to Penny Pestle and Mary Jane Goodrick, who wrote a letter to the Governor's Office in support of their grant. Pestle and Goodrick were part of the group that hosted the “Shining a Light on Behavioral Health” event in their respective roles with the Sustainable Families Coalition, which is now known as Better Together.

Behavioral health issues are under-recognized and under-treated and the coalition will help change that, Pestle said. Once recognized, people can be connected with the resources they need.

Kim Smith | 520-547-9740

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