02/03/13 — Wayne County mental health group back on track

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Wayne County mental health group back on track

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 3, 2013 1:50 AM

A year after facing possible closure, the Mental Health Association in Wayne County held its annual meeting Thursday to elect new officers and re-commit to keeping the struggling organization intact and operating, albeit with less.

"We're trying to get back on track," board member Jim Slowinski told the audience. "We're over 50 years old, 52 years old, it's a shame to let it slip away."

He emphasized the importance of continued strong leadership, crediting Mrs. Peacock for her efforts in recent years, and said he would like to see more community involvement.

Mrs. Peacock shared credit with the board and others who have sustained the program.

"We have been working," she said. "We have done Operation Santa Claus. We have started our Lunch-and-Learns. The third one is coming up Feb. 13. We also have had a workshop for professional development for the pre-K teachers in November."

The biggest goal at present, she said, is to hire a part-time staff member -- resumes and references for the administrative position are requested by Feb. 15 -- and the annual membership drive.

"When the Mental Health Association started in 1961 it was because there's such a lack of mental health services in Wayne County, so the Mental Health Association lobbied with the county commissioners," she said.

Since then there have been many changes over the years, particularly the merger of services, first with the introduction of Eastpointe Human Services, followed by its expansion to encompass a 12-county radius.

One thing that has remained intact, though, is the call center, featuring a toll-free number, 1-800-913-6109.

"That's not changed. The call center is 24/7/365," said Suzanne Lewis, part of community relations at Eastpointe. "Any time you call the number, you're going to get an answer, to get a response from a trained professional, he's going to refer you to a provider."

Playing off the old Bob Dylan song, "The Times They Are A-Changing," she suggested that while change in mental health services is inevitable, the focus should be on ways to deal with that change.

Don Neal, clinical director of Waynesboro Family Clinic, said that for the most part, the average consumer may not detect the administrative changes.

Waynesboro Family Clinic is contracted to operate Monday through Friday and every other Saturday, he said, and accepts appointments and walk-ins.

"So if we're open, we're going to serve you. We're not going to turn you away," he said. "We don't turn anyone away, that's the most important thing I can tell you."

The clinic also has a mobile crisis team, and during off hours, someone is on call. On average, he said, 2,500 to 2,600 people are seen in outpatient services.

The message he wanted to impart was simple -- the need for mental services is not going away.

"Hold on to your hat," he said. "We're definitely in for turbulent times. That's OK. We have successfully weathered the changes that have come so far."

New officers in Mental Health Association for 2013 are Mrs. Peacock, president, Beverly Deans, president-elect, Dr. Betty Slowinski, secretary, and Michelle Rogers, treasurer.

Contact information for the MHA is mhawc@att.net or 919-734-6026.