Coast to Forest: Mental Health Promotion in Rural Oregon
- Need: To promote mental health and prevent substance use disorders in Oregon.
- Intervention: Coast to Forest strengthens local capacity through training and community education.
- Results: In its first year, the project trained 195 individuals across Oregon in Mental Health First Aid and developed 36 county-level resource guides.
Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Family and Community Health Program and the OSU Center for Health Innovation created the Coast to Forest program to improve mental health and prevent substance use disorders in Oregon.
OSU received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement Coast to Forest programming in rural Baker, Lincoln, Tillamook, and Union counties. OSU also received funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to implement Coast to Forest programming in all 36 Oregon counties. Other program partners include the Oregon Office of Rural Health, Oregon Mental Health First Aid, local public health agencies and coordinated care organizations, and community coalitions.
- Delivery of SAMHSA's Community Conversations About Mental Health
- Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training for community members
- Development and dissemination of County-Level Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Resource Guides
- Community education about mental health and substance use disorders through OSU Extension radio programming and SAMHSA's National Prevention Week
- Media training to de-stigmatize mental health and substance use disorders (90-minute online sessions offered four times each year)
- Capacity building and technical assistance for local partners offered through a free online course and a web-based library
In the first year, Coast to Forest trained 195 individuals in MHFA. Sixty percent of those participants lived in rural areas. Evaluation results of MHFA indicate that 80% of participants improved in their awareness of signs and symptoms of mental health challenges and 85% of participants increased in their confidence to perform helping behaviors, such as assisting someone with a mental health concern or crisis.
In collaboration with community partners, the Coast to Forest team also developed 36 county-level resource guides that were each reviewed by local experts and aired 14 radio programs focusing on mental health and SUD resources. During an unprecedented period, the study team and community partners responded to emerging local needs in four rural counties, effectively connecting local partners to critical resources in a timely way.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges in the delivery of this program as the study team was committed to maintaining relationships with community partners and being considerate of the competing demands on their time and resources. Because of this, rollout of certain services like Community Conversations and radio programming was slower than anticipated. Additionally, the implementation of MHFA required more administrative oversight and coordination than anticipated, especially as MHFA instructors transitioned to remote delivery.
The Coast to Forest program is ongoing and recently completed its first year. The study team will have more insight into how to effectively replicate this program upon its completion in 2023.
If planning to deliver MHFA for a large number of people on a consistent basis, dedicate concentrated staff time for developing procedures for course planning and delivery, recruiting participants, coordinating course facilitation, and tracking participation. The MHFA platform does allow for team members to serve in a dedicated coordinator role to support course delivery, if desired.
Engage in community-based work with a lens of cultural humility and a focus on maintaining current and developing new and trusted relationships with community partners. With Community Conversations, for example, this project aimed to advance the work that was already being done in one local county by creating a space and structure for community leaders to share the strengths, gaps, and action areas of their local behavioral health system with one another to increase cohesion and collaboration.
Contact InformationAbbey Martin, Program Coordinator
Coast to Forest
Community health workers
Networking and collaboration
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
November 23, 2021
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2021. Coast to Forest: Mental Health Promotion in Rural Oregon [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/1096 [Accessed 29 May 2023]
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.