MARINETTE — Reports given at last Tuesday’s Marinette County Development Committee meeting shined a light on local mental health struggles faced by the public during COVID pandemic.

“The pandemic has definitely brought about increased issues for behavioral health,” said Stephanie Nault, a health and well-being educator from the University of Wisconsin, who is working with Marinette County to promote healthy and responsible living through several local programs.

“We have been seeing increases in drug overdoses, suicides, cases of neglect, binge drinking in both adults and youth, depressive symptoms and mental health issues,” Nault told the committee. “These are just some of the trends.”

Nault explained that her office has been receiving calls from childcare providers and schools concerned about children, whose mental health and well-being is particularly vulnerable during this crisis.

“Initially we responded to these requests by connecting community members with group programs which can help to provide needed resources. Recently, in response to all the calls we’ve received, we created a COVID resource link and guide which lists all the different resources available to the public,” she said.

Nault’s office is also assisting the community through virtual events, public signage and several other learning tools.

Nault went on to talk about how several of these programs are successfully combating local mental health issues. “One of these is the New Hope Coalition,” she said, adding that the coalition is focused on helping those suffering from opioid and substance use.

“The program is mainly focused on treatment, recovery and prevention efforts,” Nault explained. “This program has actually received a $1 million implementation grant recently, which is very exciting for us.”

Nault also spoke about prevention work within local schools, especially the middle schools. “We focus on prevention programs for the kids. We’ve had five Marinette County Schools work with us so far,” she said. “Another workshop we put on is the ‘Taking care of you’ program. It teaches effective stress reduction skills and strategies. This program has also been extended to foster care providers and we’re working on modifying it for the incarcerated and reentry population.”

Additionally, Nault’s office is developing materials such as tip and fact sheets to help people recognize the early signs of mental health issues. All of the materials have been made available online and many of the classes and workshops are also available online.