01/08/12 — Mental Health Association weighs closure

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Mental Health Association weighs closure

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 8, 2012 1:50 AM

The Mental Health Association in Wayne County is doing everything possible to avoid shutting its doors, but the economy might make the move inevitable, officials said Friday.

"We have disconnected the phone service because we're trying not to incur any more bills," said Emily Peacock, board president. "The office is still there because we're still in transition as to what our next step is.

"At this point, unless we find funding or find a way to sustain our activities, we're working on (the possibility) of our dissolution. We have not officially filed for dissolution through the state."

Financial woes have long plagued the association, particularly since the Mental Health Association in North Carolina was forced to close its doors in July 2010.

Amy Roux, executive director of the local association since 2004, responded to the state office closure on the MHA homepage. In an undated message, it said the local association, while affiliated with the national organization, has always operated independently and would attempt to remain intact.

"We manage our own finances, file our own tax returns and have the benefit of our own engaged and knowledgeable board of directors," the online letter said. "The Mental Association in Wayne County is fiscally sound. In short, our programs and activities will not be affected by this development."

Several months ago, though, the MHA board of directors reversed that stance, saying that funding was a problem. They announced that Ms. Roux would continue on as director and the office would remain open, but both in a limited capacity.

In a letter mailed to supporters in September, Mrs. Peacock made an appeal to raise money for the annual community project to purchase Christmas gifts for the needy, Operation Santa Claus.

"We did get some response, maybe not as much as I had hoped, but we got enough that we were able to complete the year," she said this week. "That was very helpful."

She said that $4,500 was raised for the project, allowing the MHA to serve 330 elderly and disabled, providing gifts for the holiday season.

Unfortunately, it might be too little, too late.

"We did send a letter to our supporters and those who came through for us with Operation Santa Claus, to let them know we did complete that project but to let them know that we'll probably have to cease our operations," she said.

That letter, dated Dec. 21, also expressed gratitude for those who had supported the nearly 50-year-old association, which advocates and promotes programs and resources for those suffering from mental health issues, developmental disabilities and substance abuse.

"However, the Board of Directors realizes that the association cannot continue without continuous funding above what we have been able to generate through fundraisers," the letter said. "Therefore, we are preparing to discontinue operations as soon as possible."

The official decision could come as early as month's end, she said.

"We're trying to determine if there's a way we can become more viable or sustain our viability," she explained. "We have a meeting scheduled for Jan. 26. At that point we will take official steps."

Mrs. Peacock tried to remain optimistic, crediting those who diligently served in the organization and from the community. Much was accomplished along the way, she pointed out, but it simply hasn't been enough to sustain the MHA.

"It's been sort of a struggle -- emotionally, physically and financially," she said. "We're still trying to keep an open mind, although we're trying to be realistic. We still have not closed the doors."

Anyone interested in providing financial support should contact Mrs. Peacock at 734-6026.