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Community Wellness: Board teaches 'mental health disease no different from physical ailment'

Community Wellness: Board teaches 'mental health disease no different from physical ailment'

May 22, 2015

By Nancy Patera
ICCMHA Board Chair

Posted May. 22, 2015 at 11:01 PM

Serving as a volunteer has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. The activities have run the gamut from schools, church, professional groups, political campaigns and organizations, and human service boards, among others.

That said, being appointed to the board of the Ionia County Community Mental Health Authority (ICCMHA) tops my list of worthwhile commitments. I applied in 2008 and was appointed by the Ionia County Commission to a three-year term. I am currently serving as the chair of the board and am in my third term as a board member.

So, why does the ICCMHA mean so much to me? In my experience, it is one of the few organizations that consider the entire person while focusing on someone’s behavioral health. A uniqueness that reinforces its value is the tenure of the board members. Three board members have served for almost 30 years, one member just retired with more than 30 years of experience, and there are others with close to 20 years of service. My deduction is that these people would not continue to give their time to something that did not bear fruit for all involved.

The primary duties of the 12-member ICCMHA board are to set policy for the agency and to hire the executive director, but current Executive Director Robert Lathers informs the board at our Committee of the Whole meetings, as well as at monthly board meetings of recent staff changes, new programs, and issues that may affect the Ionia County Community Mental Health Authority, either positively or negatively. He is very open to our opinions and suggestions.

I believe that, although not a written responsibility, board members of ICCMHA should be promoting the agency in any way possible. The agency has a staff member responsible for social networking, but we can use our social networking connections to support the work of Ionia County Community Mental Health. We should be encouraging people with behavioral health issues to seek help, teaching them that a mental health disease is no different from a physical ailment. Director Lathers has put together a top-notch staff and we need to tell people about the services and programs that they provide.

Along with the day-to-day care and counseling for the many recognized behavioral health conditions, Ionia County Community Mental Health offers workshops on a large number of related topics and trainings on Mental Health First Aid and ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), among others. Autism treatment for preschoolers has become a high-demand program of the agency.

As you can probably ascertain, I am passionate about the staff and services of Ionia County Community Mental Health and I encourage you to learn more about them. If you, like me, believe in caring for the total health of the citizens of Ionia County and are interested in serving on the ICCMHA board, applications may be submitted to the Ionia County Board of Commissioners.

Nancy Patera is a pastor and chair of the Ionia County Community Mental Health Authority Board.