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Mental health gets new focus

High Point Enterprise - 12/1/2019

Dec. 1--HIGH POINT -- How do individuals, businesses and nonprofit agencies in the High Point community deal with people who have mental health issues?

Macedonia Family Resource Center has begun an effort to change the mindset from one of barring mentally ill people from entry to asking what can be done to help.

"We, on a daily basis, deal with some folks who have mental illness issues," said Dell McCormick, executive director of the center. "We want to change the way these people are looked at."

Macedonia's mental health initiative began after another nonprofit leader recognized a mentally ill woman at the center and asked McCormick whether she was allowed inside.

"Absolutely, she's here every day and she gives us zero problems," McCormick said. "We have several who come here every day."

Those visitors with mental issues may use the computer, get food or participate in other ways and don't cause problems for Macedonia's staff because of established relationships, McCormick said.

"The person who asked me said, 'When I see her coming, I call for security.' Those were her exact words," he said. "It broke my heart. So I'm thinking there are probably other agencies and businesses that don't give these folks a chance. They see them coming and they don't allow them to come in. There are literally 95- to 98-degree days during the summer when these folks don't need to be just shunned away -- in the bitter cold, as well."

While in training for a Ready for School, Ready for Life board, McCormick discussed the issue of mental health disorders with Allie Blosser, an assistant professor in High Point University'sStout School of Education, and decided to apply for a High Point Community Foundation grant to do something to change the community's response.

Mental health issues have been and continue to be an unmet need, said High Point Community Foundation President Paul Lessard.

"So many of the other issues our community is dealing with originate from this issue, and our board of trustees and specifically our grants committee felt it was time to make this investment," Lessard said.

Macedonia will use the grant money to offer four eight-hour sessions free to the community on a quarterly basis in 2020 to educate the public on how to communicate and support those with mental illness. Attendees will learn effective ways to diffuse intense situations and discover how to quickly identify mental health disorders as well as a host of triggers.

"Basically, the concept isn't that we're planning on fixing everybody," McCormick said. "The plan is to train 12 to 15 other organizations and businesses as to how to deal with those who may be dealing with mental health issues as well as provide resources."

Over the past few years, Macedonia's staff has dealt with several people who have mental health issues.

"Basically, we fully developed relationships with them, communicated with them, talked to them and realized that there would be days where there would be breakdowns," McCormick said. "We wouldn't hold those breakdowns against them. We would communicate and learn to know them more and learn triggers that would bring on breakdowns if they weren't already dealing with certain issues. We looked around the community to try to find agencies that could help us. We still haven't recognized anywhere that focused specifically on how to deal with this population."

About five years ago, a homeless woman would spend the bulk of her day at Macedonia's center.

"We did everything we could to get her in a shelter, but she wanted no part of being in a shelter," McCormick said. "She wanted to be outdoors, and we knew something couldn't be right with that. We've dealt with quite a few people like this, who just have some issues that need attention. We just started recognizing that it was a citywide or a countrywide thing once folks start to talking about it."

Community Foundation board members were also hearing those discussions through the nonprofit's connections with Say Yes to Education, Lessard said.

"Our work with Say Yes Guilford has involved asking our principals what their most urgent needs are, and No. 1 on the list was mental health issues, and this is why our student support services are focusing on this issue," Lessard said. "Mental health issues are often less visible and harder to detect. It just reminds us to take time and reach out to people as we never know what challenges people are dealing with."

Macedonia will host a certified mental health counselor who will train a dozen or more nonprofits or businesses once a quarter in 2020. Participants will be provided a meal and training materials.

"We're literally in the process right now of identifying businesses and nonprofits who can benefit from it that we're going to invite to be here," McCormick said. "We're trying to choose the best dates that will work to get the maximum amount of people to actually attend. It's a really big need in the community. We're not the only ones who deal with this population. We recognized there was a need and our goal is to see what we can do to combat the problem."

cingram@hpenews.com -- 336-888-3534 -- @HPEcinde

More mental health resources:

Mental Health Associates of the Triad is a multi-tiered therapy facility for people with mental illness.

--Destiny Health is a weekday psycho-social rehabilitation program for people who have a primary mental health diagnosis and are failing in two major life areas, such as holding down a job or housing. The free program supplies independent care plans for every person with a goal to smoothly reintroduce them to the community.

--Outpatient therapy services with licensed therapists and clinicians on call provide counseling for anyone suffering from mild to moderate mental illness.

--Court services program provides mental health screening and treatment for people in the justice system.

--If you or someone you know may benefit from services at Mental Health Associates, call 336-822-2827.

RHA Health Services

RHA focuses on people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health and substance abuse.

--Walk-in crisis center is available on S. Centennial Street offering assessments and interventions for people of all ages, with no appointment necessary.

--Recovery Education Center houses a support and mentoring program for those recovering from substance abuse and other mental health issues. The leaders themselves are in recovery from substance abuse or mental health problems.

Hotlines

If you or someone you know may be having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or text CONNECT to 741741 for any kind of crisis assistance.

If you are having a medical emergency, call 911.

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(c)2019 The High Point Enterprise (High Point, N.C.)

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