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Crow Wing Energized Partner Story

Crow Wing Energized is a county-wide grassroots movement in partnership with Crow Wing County, Minnesota, Essentia Health and others to improve the health and wellness of county residents through a focus on healthy choices, mental fitness, workplace wellness and community connections. Karen Johnson, a Community Health Specialist, has been helping to lead the Crow Wing Energized Movement since 2019.

In 2014, Crow Wing Energized launched the Make It OK campaign after seeing a real need to focus on mental health as a result of their Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). Leadership also recognized mental health is as important as physical health.

“It was apparent people were not talking about mental health and were apprehensive because of the stigma surrounding it.”

— Karen Johnson, Community Health Specialist

Crow Wing Energized kicked off Make It OK with a panel discussion and webinar event. Community leaders were empowered and invited to share their own mental health experiences.

You have to have buy-in from leadership. We were lucky to have a leader that understood the importance of talking about mental health,” said Karen.  Since launching, mental health continues to show up as an important community health need.  “So, we continue to reach out and share the message hoping to reach those who may not have heard it or have not taken it to heart,” Karen shared. Raising awareness, letting people know it’s ok to ask for help and working to change the way people talk about mental health and illnesses all remain an important part of Crow Wing Energized’s Make It OK work.

In addition to leadership buy-in, engaging community partners, such as the school district, local hospital, and other organizations, has been a key strategy in helping to mobilize and maintain momentum of Make It OK. “The more people you can get involved, the more ambassadors you can train, the more people you have helping to share the Make It OK message,“ Karen said. They were intentional about reaching out to the biggest employers in the county asking them to join them in the effort. The school district ensured employees had an opportunity to get trained in Make It OK. There is a workplace wellness group, who continually has the most requests for Make It OK presentations and resources. “Workplaces are always looking for worksite wellness training and Make It OK fits perfectly into the work they do,” Karen shared.

Since launching Make It OK in 2014:

  • 200 Ambassadors have been trained to help share the message
  • 3,600+ people have attended a Make It OK community presentation
  • Essentia Health offers regular Make It OK presentations as a training opportunity for staff

Like many others, they too hit quite a lull due to COVID-19, but are seeing people getting excited again for opportunities right now. Karen shared “We continue to recognize we have not impacted our entire community, so we continue to find ways to reach all people with Make It OK.” She went on to say, “A big benefit of Make It OK is that the tools and resources are all created and ready to be shared. It’s plug and play! I can’t stress enough how easy it is.” She also shared they used Make It OK promotional items, like buttons, pens, and other giveaways when they started as an easy way to help further raise awareness. Karen reflected on the importance of ambassadors, and how they are sharing the message throughout the community. “Whoever is passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness, can be an ambassador and help lead this work,” she said.

Since launching Make It OK, Crow Wing Energized believes they are seeing a more compassionate, caring community – just that empathy for someone living with mental illness. Karen says, they have a way to go but it is something they continue to work on every day.

“I can’t stress enough the ease of using Make It OK. It is plug and play. I think it is a message that everybody needs to hear. We want more compassionate and caring communities. That’s what Make It OK helps to do.”

— Karen Johnson, Community Health Specialist