The Spiritual Care Network, National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Houston, and the Behavioral Health and Suicide Prevention Taskforce of Montgomery County are collaborating to bring the 5th annual Hope Rising mental health conference to Montgomery County on March 3, which will be held in The Woodlands.

Community members, mental health professionals and faith leaders are encouraged to attend to learn about the state of mental health services in Montgomery County and connect with local resources.

Community Impact previously reported Montgomery County entities noted seeing a rising number of calls for mental health services last fall and a need for more help to address the crisis.

During the conference, the BHSP taskforce will present findings from its analysis of gaps in mental health services across Montgomery County, an initiative that began last fall, NAMI President Brenda LaVar said. The findings have been presented to local legislators; however, the findings have not yet been made public, she said.

"The idea was to make this [conference] something where we see the joining [of the community and faith groups]. ... There's no way to do this without the faith community, so that's one of the reasons why it's critical that this start here, because this is the first presentation to the public at large of that information," LaVar said in a Feb. 20 interview. "We identified ... four things we can work on in two years and thought we can have an impact. This is the first time this is being presented in general with the hopes that there will be other folks, especially from the faith community, that will join in and become a part of those action groups."

The event also includes a keynote address by psychiatrist Paul Looney, as well as breakout sessions on making changes in the community, according to the conference schedule. Lunch is provided with registration, and attendees can connect with local organizations and treatment programs throughout the conference.

Wendell Campbell, a drug intelligence officer at Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, will also present an update on the fentanyl overdose epidemic. The event will close with a presentation by Evan Roberson, executive director of Tri-County Behavioral Healthcare, according to the conference schedule.

“This event is an opportunity for both professionals and community members to come together, build relationships and create powerful partnerships that will help those in need of mental health and addiction resources,” Eric Ayles, board president of the Spiritual Care Network—a national nonprofit with a mission to bridge the gap between mental health and faith—and director of business development with Starlite Recovery Center, said in a Feb. 15 news release.

Mental health professionals can also receive continuing education credit by attending the conference, according to the release.

Lanita Hereford said the conference was started six years ago by her late husband, John Hereford, who worked in pastoral care in The Woodlands.

"He's the one who really started [this conference]," Ayles said in an interview. "This is in memory of him, and we're going to continue this and his vision—to reach out to the community and offer mental health resources, to educate and to bring it all together."

The conference is 8 a.m.-3 p.m. March 3 at The Woodlands First Baptist Church, located at 11801 Grogans Mill Road, The Woodlands. Registration is available online until the day of the event for $15 general admission; admission for mental health professions is $35, according to conference details. A limited number of scholarships are available, Ayles said.