May proclaimed mental health month
WOODSFIELD — The Monroe County Board of Commissioners proclaimed May as Mental Health Awareness Month, National Community Action Month and Older Americans Month on behalf of two community agencies at their meeting Monday.
Jayn Devney, executive director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board which serves Belmont, Harrison and Monroe counties, is promoting Mental Health Awareness Month for her agency.
“We are a legislated body and we are responsible for assessing a community’s need for services, evaluating and determining the types of services that should be in place, funding and distributing those services and evaluating the outcomes of those services,” Devney said.
The agency works through not-for-profit contract providers that provide drug and alcohol treatment, domestic abuse and rape counseling services and mental health treatment. It is also working with the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department to help inmates overcome mental health and addiction issues so they are less likely to offend again.
“Despite all the prevention and education efforts that are out there, we still find that there is still a significant amount of stigma attached to somebody stepping forward and trying to seek services,” Devney said. “Roughly one in six people in Monroe County are suffering from a diagnosable mental illness right now. We hope those people come forward.”
She said another 50 percent of people will experience some type of mental or psychological disruption in life in which counseling could be of benefit.
“We believe with the commissioners getting behind this that people might feel more comfortable, and understand that it is OK to ask for help,” Devney said.
The Mental Health and Recovery Board believes mental health is essential to everyone’s well-being and that with early and effective treatment, individuals with mental illness can recover and lead full, productive lives.
“Each business, school, government agency, health care provider, organization and citizen shares the burden of mental illness and has a responsibility to promote mental illness and support prevention efforts,” the commissioners’ proclamation states.
Officials from the Guernsey-Monroe-Noble Tri-County Community Action Agency also presented the commissioners proclamations to promote May as Community Action Month and Older Americans Month.
Gary Ricer, CEO of GMN Tri-County Community Action Council, said his agency has been promoting “self-sufficiency for the limited income” for the last 52 years, since the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was signed into law which created community action agencies.
GMN Tri-County CAC operates 33 programs concurrently, serving the underprivileged through Head Start facilities, senior citizen centers, broadband networks, weatherization housing programs, abstinence programs and a Homeless Crisis Response Program, among others.
“We like to say we don’t give people a handout, we give them a hand up. We serve clients from birth to the grave,” Ricer said. “The travesty I’m seeing right now is the band of middle-income earners is shrinking, and the low-income band is widening. We are serving clients we’ve never seen before.”
Ricer said he attributes much of the expansion of low-income clients to mental illness, the opioid epidemic and downturns in the economy.
The agency employs 327 workers across the three counties, and operates on a $10 million budget. Seventy percent of its funding is federal, 25 percent comes from the state, and 5 percent comes from private donations.