Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a crowd of 300 friends, supporters, board members and staff at our Game Changer Gala. It was an inspiring evening – filled with joy, laughter and powerful stories of recovery. Together, we raised more than $111,000 to help make mental health and substance use treatment, as well as housing services, more accessible for thousands of people across Wyandotte County.
The past year has been a year full of celebrations as we marked 70 years of Wyandot Behavioral Health Network. We have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to celebrate with our staff, our community partners and soon we hope to celebrate with many of our friends and supporters at our upcoming Game Changer Gala as our 70th anniversary year draws to a close.
Years ago, when one of our case managers was asked by a community member about what they do, they responded “we create hope.” Those three words have stuck with me all these years. September is National Recovery Month and for individuals who are struggling with mental health and addiction challenges, hope is vital. And this year’s theme is “Hope is Real. Recovery is Real.”
There is a lot of responsibility that comes with being a community mental health center. It requires us to stay connected to the community to ensure we are meeting the current needs. And it also means providing quality, accessible care close to home. And while I might be a bit biased, I think our staff at Wyandot BHN embody what it really means to be a community mental health center. And I was thankful for the opportunity earlier this month to celebrate everything they’ve accomplished over the past year.
When a person is discharged from a hospital, the idea is to transition their care from the hospital back into the community. This idea holds true for mental and behavioral health treatment. But what happens if the person being discharged does not have a permanent home or address? What happens to them? And how does that affect their recovery?
After four years of addressing individual and community trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and helping to promote resiliency in Wyandotte County, Alive & Thrive is saying goodbye – for now. At this time, funding for Alive & Thrive cannot be sustained.
Last month, we had the unique opportunity to celebrate the recovery journeys of dozens of Wyandot BHN clients, staff and community members at the stART the conversation art exhibition. It’s not every day that we get a chance to see, hear and celebrate stories of recovery from our friends and neighbors. But that is what makes stART the conversation such a special event. It brings together Kansas Citians with varying levels of experience with art without any sort of “acceptance process.” The exhibition is about providing a platform for anyone who has a message to share about mental health. And the messages that were shared this year were powerful and started important conversations about mental health and recovery.
Mental Health Month is a time to educate ourselves about the realities of mental health. And I was encouraged to see nearly 700 Kansas Citians doing just that at the Mental Health KC Conference earlier this month. While the conference primarily attracts mental health professionals, it is also starting to reach more corporate and business community members, as well as parents and others in the community who just want to deepen their understanding of mental health.
The COVID-19 National Emergency has now come to an end. And while that doesn’t mean that we’re living in a “post-COVID” world, I think many of us would agree that we can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief. But if you ask me, there has been a silver lining to come from the pandemic. It helped us normalize mental health and the need for support.
For years, Wyandot BHN has closely partnered with law enforcement and the local judicial system to ensure that individuals involved in the justice system have access to quality behavioral health services. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that 44 percent of those in jail and 37 percent of those in prison have a mental illness. Those numbers are even higher for individuals experiencing substance use disorders. And incarceration can make existing mental health or substance use challenges even worse.
Earlier this month, I was listening to post-game interviews on the radio while on my way home from a KU basketball game. As the interviews were wrapping up, one of KU’s young guards, Joseph Yesufu, was asked about his new year’s resolution for 2023. And what he said struck me. He said he was going to do one thing every day for someone else.
The idea of doing something kind for someone else – even if you don’t do it every day – is something we should all consider, especially if you are looking for ways to improve your mental health in 2023.