The mental health community in Eastern Connecticut has grown louder and stronger over the past several years, using their collective voice to draw attention to issues and concerns facing our region. Our members have influenced legislators and decision-makers for their own good and the good of their friends and neighbors.
To say that I am proud of these advocates would be a gross understatement - I am humbled and inspired by them as people, and by their work as individuals and as a group. I have learned so much about tenacity and hope from our members.
Today I want to share a testimony written by Brenda Joyce Kingsley, a resident of Putnam, Connecticut. Brenda was the winner of the Eastern Regional Mental Health Board's 2016 Advocate of the Year Award, and she uses her strong, powerful voice to speak on behalf of herself and her friends and loved ones.
Please read and share Brenda's story about health insurance.
“Insurance” – Brenda Joyce Kingsley
"I am 66 years old. I have insurance coverage: Medicare and Husky Health. This means I can go to my family doctor; I can go to doctors to have follow-ups: thyroid, kidney, liver, and heart doctors. I can get prescribed medicines for my health – thyroid medicine, liver medicine, and cholesterol medicine.
I can get medicine for my mental health: bipolar, anxiety, and depression. I have insurance coverage for mental health appointments.
Because I have insurance, I can go to a medical hospital.
Recently the liver doctor did an endoscopy and colonoscopy – results: bacteria living in my stomach. I had to take prescribed medicines for 10 days. I’ve been good now for 10 years, because I had insurance coverage I was able to get the procedure done.
I have insurance.
Last year I needed an eye exam because I had to get bifocal glasses. I was covered by insurance. With insurance, I am able to get the eye exams from the eye doctor. Insurance covered the eye glasses.
Not to have insurance – not to have coverage – not to have the medicines I need for physical and mental health – I would not have the physical and mental health I have now. I do not know what would happen to me, how sick I would become.
We are talking about a lot of people that would be left with no insurance."
Got a story that you'd like to share? Please send it to our interim director, Kati Mapa, at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
In 1990, the United States Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), in order to raise mental illness awareness, and this year’s recognition is nearly upon us. From October 4th - 10th, advocates across the county will come together to build public awareness and change perceptions by educating and informing their communities about mental health issues and the very real hope for recovery.
As the community’s voice in mental health issues, we’ve decided to observe Mental Illness Awareness Week in a fun and interactive way through our #WearGreen4MIAW Contest. Here’s how you can join in:
It’s easy! At the end of the week, we’ll choose THREE winners, to be selected by a random drawing. Winners will receive one of our gorgeous 40th Anniversary commemorative mugs. We’ll notify winners on Facebook and Instagram, so please watch for our announcement at the conclusion of MIAW.
We work hard all year to fulfill our statutory mandate, and advocacy never takes a holiday. But we can’t discount the importance of taking time to ramp up our activities a bit through annual observances like Mental Illness Awareness Week. Our #WearGreen4MIAW gives us a special opportunity to come together and honor the passion and strength of the people who make it possible for the Eastern Regional Mental Health Board to fulfill its mission.
State law requires us to evaluate mental health programs in our region, assess strengths and unmet needs, make recommendations for improvements to the mental health systems, and plan for the future. The most profound aspect of our work, though, is the people we meet—those who are working to recover from mental health and substance use challenges, the family members and friends who offer support and encouragement, the dedicated staff members who provide a full array of critically needed services (often at a barely adequate wage), and the caring community members who join us.
It is incredibly fulfilling to help people find their voices, and to watch them become empowered through advocacy and the ability to have a direct voice in how services can and should be provided in Eastern Connecticut. Some believe that this is more significant to recovery than the services themselves.
Please call 860-886-0030 if you have questions about the contest. We’re looking forward to enjoying your photos, and to seeing our message inundate Facebook & Instagram feeds everywhere!
*Ashford, Bozrah, Brooklyn, Canterbury, Chaplin, Colchester, Columbia, Coventry, East Lyme, Eastford, Franklin, Griswold, Groton, Hampton, Killingly, Lebanon, Ledyard, Lisbon, Mansfield, Montville, New London, North Stonington, Norwich, Plainsfield, Pomfret, Preston, Putnam, Salem, Scotland, Sprague, Sterling, Stonington, Thompson, Union, Voluntown, Waterford, Willington, Windham, Woodstock
Something exciting is happening in New London.
Young adults who might otherwise have slipped through the cracks are getting the help they need, thanks to the AXS Center, now in its second year at Sound Community Services. Created by the agency in partnership with Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health to offer New London’s young adults aged 18-25 with a safe place to learn, grow and succeed, the program began with a client list of 18 and now serves over 200.
AXS is one of three community access centers created in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy to address the lack of resources for supporting young adults as they face stressors in their lives, connect safely with their communities, and realize their full potential as they mature into adulthood.
The Eastern Regional Mental Health Board had the pleasure of visiting AXS last week to review the program, and left completely bowled over with admiration for the program, its staff, and the people they serve.
Unlike traditional Young Adult Services programs, says director Jason Hyatt, the AXS Center casts a huge net into the community to find its clients. The program’s outreach coordinator finds young adults where they live, socialize, and play: in churches, neighborhoods, and even on the basketball courts, in order to engage them. Simple word-of-mouth brings in countless others.
Program staff noted that it makes perfect sense to have one of the first access centers in New London; where young adults are confronted with the same issues as in Hartford, New Haven or Bridgeport on a per capita basis: gang violence, drugs, drop-outs, homelessness, unemployment, single parenting, and more. In New London, they pointed out, “you either go to college, go into the military, or get a job at EB. After that there isn’t much left.” Young people who lack options can lose hope for the future, and fall in with the wrong crowds.
The AXS Center may be small, but its staff have big plans for its growth, and they may well be trailblazers for our region. What’s so special about this program?
Jason concluded the visit with this thought: “When AXS started, it was not just to change people or families, but to change a culture, the culture of youth in New London. This doesn’t happen overnight. It’s probably a 10-year process.
The Eastern Regional Mental Health Board intends to devote the coming year to learning about the needs of young adults throughout our region, and will be conducting intensive outreach to communities in Eastern Connecticut. We will use what we learn to make a set of recommendations to our state’s policy makers. If you care about young adults, or have some ideas you’d like to share, please contact me at 860-886-0030 or email@example.com.
Labor Day is over, school is in session across Eastern Connecticut, and fall is nearly upon us! That means cooler temperatures, shorter days, and the first Catchment Area Council meetings of our 2015/16 meeting season. In fact, CACs 13 and 14 will meet tonight at the Killingly Public library. Please consider joining us there if you live in NE CT and care about accessible and appropriate behavioral health services for your community.
I love September! I may no longer be putting a child on the bus to school or moving one into a college dorm, but I will always feel the energy, the sense of anticipation, and the renewal of purpose this month signifies for me. For our work here at the Eastern Regional Mental Health Board, that translates into some exciting plans for this fall:
A NEW Website: We will launch our brand-new website, www.changingmindsct.org, shortly. The more modern, user-friendly and visually appealing design is more in keeping with today's expectations of web-based platforms, including a mobile friendly option. It offers many more features as well, including the ability to donate online through PayPal, subscribe to our e-Newsletter, view photos from events, participate in our blog platform, view upcoming events on our Google-based calendar, and download important documents.
Social Media Growth: Our goal is to have a goal of 500 "likes" on Facebook by the end of 2015--you can help us make that happen by liking our page if you haven't already, and asking your friends to do so as well. We’re also active on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Click on links at the beginning of this newsletter to view our pages and subscribe to them!
Norwich State Oral History Project: We’ve purchased high-quality recording equipment, created mission and vision statements, and are now scheduling interviews. With your help, we can preserve important stories from the region’s history of providing services to those with mental health conditions. Please reach out to former patients, their family members, and former staff, and encourage them to contact us at860-886-0030 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule their interviews. I have received formal training on how to conduct an oral history project, including ethical and legal considerations, and I can assure you that all participants, and their stories, will be treated with the utmost respect.
College Campus Outreach: Did you know that there are eight college campuses in the region served by the Eastern Regional Mental Health Board? With the heightened awareness of mental health concerns on college campuses nationwide, and increasing challenges in meeting the unique needs of young adults living in our region, we have identified a need to build stronger relationships with colleges and universities in Eastern Connecticut. Beginning next week, Kati Mapa, a second-year MSW student at University of Connecticut, will be interning with us for the entire academic year. With a concentration in Community Organization, Kati is ideally suited to help us conduct outreach and plan collaborative activities with college communities. We’ll keep you posted on her progress! If you have existing relationships with student organizations, faculty members or administration officials that can help us, please let me know.
Each week, we’ll be sending you our e-Newsletter, with its improved format, to provide you with the latest news about the Eastern Regional Mental Health Board and its activities. Your feedback and comments are always welcome!