02/10/10 — Mental Health Association hands out awards

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Mental Health Association hands out awards

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 10, 2010 1:47 PM

The topic of health care may be on everyone's lips, but when it comes to mental health, there's still a great stigma attached, says Dr. Jonathan Barnes, clinical director of Eastpointe.

"We try to find nice words for these things," he said during the Mental Health Association in Wayne County's annual awards dinner Tuesday night.

In his PowerPoint presentation, he scrolled through page and after page of diagnoses that fall under the heading of mental illness. And while he took a light-hearted approach at the prevalence -- ranging from anxiety and depression to substance abuse and developmental disabilities -- he said there is no denying the need for services.

Mental health reform has resulted in hospital emergency rooms and private providers absorbing some of the care, Barnes said. And then there are the "patients that wind up going to Cherry because nobody else is equipped to handle them."

Cherry is a "key resource" to the community, as well as the state, agreed its director, Philip Cook.

He told the audience, which included the Mental Health Association board of directors and volunteers, that they played a vital role in securing mental health services. He cited other cities and towns that have failed to sustain similar organizations.

"It's very clear that our patients must have someone like you advocating for their needs," he said. "The patients that we work with are unable to advocate for their own needs."

Both Cook and Deborah Exum, O'Berry Center director, spoke about the rich heritage of their facilities and shared some of their plans for the future.

Cherry is expected to break ground for what will become its new 360-bed hospital sometime this spring. O'Berry is in the midst of a move to become a specialized long-term care facility in the coming months.

"We expect to open our first long-term unit, for those who require 24-hour intensive medical care," she said, explaining Cluster II renovations that will allow O'Berry to become a skilled nursing facility. It is one of seven buildings on the grounds that will ultimately be converted.

Four awards were presented during the gathering, three for voluntary support of the organization.

The other, presented to Edna White, was a recognition that had previously been made by the state. She was named Mental Health Association of North Carolina Health Care Technician of the Year.

"Every year, two or three nominations can be sent to the state level from each of our psychiatric hospitals," said Penny Withrow, volunteer services coordinator at Cherry. "This year's Cherry nomination, Edna White, was chosen as health care technician."

Ms. White, who began working at Cherry in 1989 as a health care technician in Woodard geriatric building, is now assigned to the U-3 treatment mall area.

The A.H. Zealy Award for outstanding volunteer service went to Mrs. Withrow, who contributed 256 of the 1,952 volunteer hours tallied for the association during 2009.

Dr. Betty Slowinski received the S.B. McPheeters Award, given to an outstanding board member.

Goldsboro Civitans Club received the William Condron Award, presented to an individual or organization for outstanding advocacy of the Mental Health Association.