While I am not directly impacted by mental illness in my immediate family, I serve a rural community where the term “family” is truly inclusive of your friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Mental Health issues impact my family every day, and I have long been an advocate for treatment and resources.
I am currently President of NAMI of Southwest Missouri and a board member for NAMI Missouri. The many programs we offer may be the only hope for some in the recovery process, and I am very proud to be a part of such a wonderful and supportive organization.
Upon graduation from Southwest Baptist University with degrees in Psychology and Sociology, I made the decision to dedicate my life to helping persons living with mental illness. I have had the privilege of assisting many such individuals and families over the past 20 years facing the numerous obstacles presented by mental illness.
When I discovered NAMI, I realized there existed a larger voice than my own to advocate for the belief that mental illness is a medical condition that should be treated with equal consideration as any other condition. It has been a difficult mission trying to change peoples’ understanding about medical conditions related to the brain. NAMI provides the grassroots work in all 50 states, moving us ever closer to achieving this goal.
My involvement with NAMI at the local and state level since the 1990’s has enabled me to speak to local and state legislators, educating them regarding recovery and treatment needs of those living with mental illness and how the government officials could assist from their posts. Locally, I was recently able to work with a mother whose son has suffered from mental illness and who has gotten involved in our criminal justice system.
She had suffered for several years with little understanding of what was actually available to her family—services that very well may have prevented the young man’s justice system involvement. After offering my assistance, I am increasingly convinced that NAMI must offer more education and help than is currently available and accessible.
First, NAMI must work towards easier and more reliable access to mental health services for those individuals suffering from mental health issues, and their families. I believe that there are often effective services available but the issue of awareness of those services and how to access them is of great concern. Many times when a mental health crisis situation emerges, individuals do not know where to turn. As such, we need to work toward educating the public on what is available and how to get to those services.
I feel that in light of all the recent tragedies we will see more emphasis on mental health services, and we must take advantage of this time to entrench this focus, so these critical services are not lost after the relentless media outcry comes to a halt. Second, stigma continues to be an ever-present barrier to effective mental health care. I know from my experience working at a rural hospital, I have often had to educate those with whom I work about stigmatizing behaviors and attitudes, of which they are often unaware.
Receiving mental health care should be no more shameful than walking in to the cancer treatment center to receive chemo or radiation—and should be accompanied by the same kinds of supports and encouragement. I am working in my small part of the country to change that perspective, but feel we as an organization must step forward and work toward this on a large scale basis, using best practices in social marketing and education to address this barrier. Third, as an organization we must continue to focus efforts in improving our mental health services for active military members as well as our military veterans. Support from the board will ensure that we do not lose focus on this priority.
I have served on for-profit and not-for-profit boards in the past, including NAMI of Southwest Missouri, NAMI Missouri, Missouri Assisted Living Association, Enterprises Unlimited (a Sheltered Workshop), Humane Society of Bolivar, Missouri, and the Bolivar Rotary Club. My greatest contribution to each of the boards was my dedication to their respective missions, and strengths in the area of financial management and development.
I enjoy fundraising and the opportunity to market the mission of the board in which I am invested. When I was asked to serve on the board of Enterprises Unlimited Sheltered Workshop, it was in extreme financial distress and at risk of closure, which would have put over 100 employees with developmental disabilities and mental illnesses out of employment (often one of their only sources of meaningful activity). The board members and I were able to turn this organization around and merge this small sheltered workshop with a larger workshop.
This sheltered workshop is now fully functioning and adding more disabled workers to their payroll. Many hard financial and operational decisions had to be made, but in the end we were able to achieve and sustain our mission. As a not-for-profit organization, it is imperative to ensure that the decisions made and the directions taken by the organization are consistent with the highest legal and ethical standards—and this has been another hallmark of my board service.”
We developed an on-line toolkit for the Awareness Month, with sample media alerts, bumper stickers and fact sheets. We enlisted a pro bono PR firm to distribute a joint press release with NAMI.
I feel that these past experiences and the knowledge I have garnered over the years are assets and qualities I would bring with me to benefit NAMI Board. If I am elected to the NAMI Board, I would make NAMI my first priority and reduce my interaction with the other boards to an advisory capacity to insure they can also benefit from NAMI programs and hopefully expand their support to NAMI.
The majority of our membership has a family member with mental illness or they have a mental illness themselves. I would like to reach out and expand our membership to include individuals who have perhaps not had the opportunity to experience mental illness on a personal level, but understand that what we are fighting for is a worthwhile cause.
I have had the opportunity in my professional behavioral health role within the hospital where I’m employed to educate and encourage learning of diagnoses, symptoms, issues, and concerns related to living with and dealing with mental illnesses. I have had the pleasure of working with clergy, physicians (including psychiatrists and many other specialty areas), attorneys, universities, and businesses in this role, and have used my position to educate and advocate whenever possible and appropriate. In the interest of greater inclusiveness and optimal expansion, I would like to start a campaign to increase our numbers targeting the above kinds of individuals and businesses.
I have successfully run my own business for the past 21 years, and completed my MBA with an emphasis in Health Administration last summer. I am also the Director of Behavioral Health Services for a rural hospital in Bolivar, Missouri that provides an inpatient psychiatric unit as well as multiple outpatient services. I feel my business experience as well as my education has provided me with knowledge of financial matters that would be beneficial to the NAMI Board. I have worked with many legal matters in all aspects of my own business, hospital employment, and my prior board commitments, and thus am very comfortable and familiar with the full range of issues faced in the course of doing business.
Working for the hospital as well as myself, I have created many successful marketing plans and programs. For example, when I joined the hospital, no marketing practices were in place for psychiatric services. It was clear to me that many individuals in need of services (and those who cared for them) were not aware of what the hospital offered; so, I developed a marketing plan that continues to make behavioral health services some of the most consistently utilized in the health care system.
The hospital is a very progressive and innovative rural hospital, and is nationally recognized as such. As a result, I have had the opportunity to learn many aspects of information technology, including one of the earliest adoptions of an electronic medical record system. Finally, fundraising has always been something I have enjoyed doing and have done well. I have contributed this skill to each of the boards on which I’ve served. I have been told that I’m very easy to talk to, and I think this greatly facilitates fundraising success—I am very comfortable with “the ask”!
|Job Title or Position:||Administrator/Director of Behavioral Health Services|
|Employer:||Blue Castle of the Ozarks, Inc./ Burrell Behavioral Health/Citizen’s Memorial Hospital|
|NAMI Affiliations:||NAMI Southwest Missouri, Board President and NAMI Missouri, Board Member|
|Other Board Service:||I am not currently serving on any other boards of directors|
|Public Office:||I am not currently serving in any public/elected office|
1. I became involved with NAMI after finding there was a larger voice than just my own to advocate for those suffering from mental illness. I have been involved in NAMI at the local level as well as the state level since the 1990’s. I am currently President of our local affiliate and a board member for NAMI Missouri. The diverse programs offered by NAMI may be the only resources available to individuals and families in the recovery process.
2. I see access to services, stigma reduction, education and military/veterans affairs as the most important areas for which we need to advocate. In light of current country-wide issues, I am convinced I can help focus national support on local communities to prevent and provide appropriate responses to difficult issues.
3. I have served on for-profit and not-for-profit boards in the past. My greatest contribution to each of the boards was my dedication to the cause that it was serving, as well as insightful financial management. I enjoy fundraising and the opportunity to market the mission of the board I am serving on. If elected, I would make NAMI my first priority and reduce my interaction with the other boards to an advisory capacity to insure they can also benefit from NAMI programs and hopefully expand their support to NAMI.
4. Using my knowledge and experience with organizations focused on increasing services and membership support, I can assist in moving towards the NAMI vision.
5. I have successfully run my own business for the past 21 years and recently finished my MBA with an emphasis in Health Administration. I have been the director of behavioral health services for a rural hospital for the past 4 years, and bring knowledge and experience in marketing, fundraising, and organizational behavior.
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