Shelly Muñoz

Project REACH Highlight: Addressing Men’s Mental Health in Crow Wing County

Isabel Margerie

In 2023, four community leaders from rural Minnesota were selected as the Project REACH (Rural Experts Advancing Community Health) cohort, a joint initiative of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Program through the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Shelly Muñoz, an education consultant for Sourcewell in central Minnesota, has more than 25 years experience in the classroom. She is especially passionate about science and STEM education, advocating for equitable opportunities for all students to find their voice in STEM and supporting initiatives that enable young people to achieve what they once thought was impossible. Muñoz holds a Master of Science degree from California Baptist University and is deeply committed to addressing the mental health needs of individuals in rural communities.

As part of her work with Project REACH, Muñoz has been dedicated to raising awareness, advocacy, and education around mental health issues in the community, with a particular emphasis on addressing men’s suicide in Crow Wing County. Her policy proposal focused on improving access to mental health services and expanding the rural mental health workforce. In April, Muñoz met with Sarah Sandgren, the health and aging outreach director for Senator Tina Smith, Representative Josh Heintzeman, and Senator Justin Eichorn to effect positive change in mental health policies and ensure that everyone has access to the resources and tools they need to support their mental wellbeing. 

"The Project Reach Fellowship has been an incredible experience for me. The top-notch learning modules and world-class support made it one of the most valuable learning experiences I've ever had,” said Muñoz. “Through my mental health policy work, I had the opportunity to meet amazing individuals in my community who are doing fantastic work in Crow Wing County. Meeting with legislators not only empowered my efforts but also reinforced my belief in the power of proactive advocacy for change. There are not enough 'thank yous' for this opportunity, and I will forever be grateful for this experience."

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