At our September 25th meeting we had a very far-ranging discussion about mental health needs, services, and shortfalls in meeting these needs within Clay County. Following are some of the comments and an exciting outcome from the meeting.
The finances and funding to support the mental health needs are inadequate and we need more resources.
Many children that are served by the Guardian ad Litem program have mental health issues.
We are servicing people on the back end, after they are in real need for services rather than at the front end where we could be providing preventative services. We need to focus on the front end where people can share their pain.
From the perspective of Clay Behavioral which deals with child welfare, children in schools, and drug intervention they are way underfunded.
One participant reminded us that often the families of those dealing with mental illness are overlooked and this is where NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) provides support. She became very active in NAMI after her child was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
A participant shared with us her personal journey after being diagnosed with bipolar. She wants to give hope to others and reminds us that we should not label someone as being schizophrenic; rather they have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She suggested that we explore ways to share the story of mental health issues with our legislators in order to get more support.
St. Leo University has students who are studying to go into the mental health field and also has students who have mental health problems.
Clay Behavioral is grateful that the County Commissioners restored some of their funding, but there are still many unmet challenges. Finances are stretched tight and every penny goes to services to support clients. Therefore pink walls and very outdated intake areas greet those coming in for services. At many of our meetings Lack of Transportation is mentioned as a limiting factor in getting clients to services, this meeting was no exception.
Mental Health issues can be generational and situational. A process called ‘gaslighting’, based on an old movie was explained where a partner can intentionally set someone up for thinking that they are crazy. Women coming into Quigley House can be very fragile as they have been victims of abuse and / or gaslighting.
We had a social worker who works with children 6 years old and under explain the challenges of working with these youngest patients. There aren’t many social workers who deal with such young children.
The Reinhold Foundation provides Awards to nonprofit organizations in Clay County, training in leadership, and is very supportive of the success of our nonprofits.
A meeting participant shared with us the she has had to deal with 2 children with mental health issues. She sought out mental health services for one of her children which were not effective. Now that the child is incarcerated, he is getting much better mental health services within the prison system.
We had a representative from the Library who wants the library to become a source of information for its patrons.
The Clay County Chamber of Commerce has a membership category for nonprofits and many have already become members of the Chamber. Finally Friday meetings are a great venue for making a wide variety people in the community aware of your organization’s needs. When excess funds are collected at Finally Friday meetings they are donated back to nonprofits.
We had 3 Americorp members join us – one is working with Clay Behavioral, one is a health coach, and the other is working at the Teen Center.
Another participant from Quigley House who is a social worker mentioned that a source of payment for services can come from the Victims Compensation fund.
An active service member from the Navy and St. Leo University student commented that he may be able to get a team together to paint over those pink walls. His groups do a lot of volunteer work in the community. He views the churches as a great way to connect with the community.
Two people attended from the Northeast Florida Community Action Agency which provides support to its customers in need of services to help them move toward self-sufficiency.
Someone represented Community Hospice, an organization which supports patients and families as they face end of life decisions and support services.
We had two pastors attend, who represent the faith-based community, a group that we’d really like to participate more in our sessions. It is our churches throughout the community that can direct their parishioners to resources that they may need and to opportunities for them to volunteer.
While we shared many diverse perspectives, through discussion we arrived at a shared view of next steps – how we’d like to move forward with tackling our community’s mental health challenges.
A common thread throughout the discussion was to find ways to break down the stigma of mental illness. The group responded to the suggestion that we forge a Mental Health Council and Karen Peyton of Clay Behavioral stepped forward to lead such an effort.
We identified specific targets for this group:
- Conduct a survey of services needed, using the churches as one way to do this
- Bring other groups into the council who were not at the meeting such as the Sheriff’s Department
- Create a Directory of Mental Health Services
- Formulate a process to communicate about mental health services through the media and other means
- Prepare a statement of need and present it to our legislators
- Hold a community seminar similar to the one recently held by Baptist Health in Duval County
- Identify ways to move from back-end support to front-end or preventative support.
Please consider joining Karen of Clay Behavioral on the Mental Health Council, an incredible initiative to showcase how Clay County can step up and provide support to those stigmatized, overlooked, and in real need of our caring.