With more than a million adults in Missouri suffering from mental health issues each year, a local agency is turning a spotlight on organizations that can help.
The United Way of Greater St. Joseph is focusing on mental health this week as a part of its 2022 annual campaign, which aims to raise $2.7 million. Each week during the campaign, the United Way will highlight a different area of work.
According to the Missouri Department of Mental Health, nearly 1 million Missouri adults suffer from mental illness each year. The United Way partners with many agencies, including Family Guidance Center for Behavioral Healthcare, The CENTER, a Samaritan Center and YWCA St. Joseph to help provide mental health services to the community.
Kristina Hannon, co-chief executive officer at Family Guidance Center, said the United Way campaign is important because the money her agency receives helps provide services to people who otherwise may not be able to afford them.
“When we look at using the dollars that we receive from the United Way, things that may go for is therapy to help somebody who is coping with grief or loss,” Hannon said. “Those dollars may go to help support medications for a child whose health insurance won’t cover it or to help an adult who is homeless get back on the road to recovery. So those dollars really matter and they help fill a lot of gaps for people to get access to health care where they may not otherwise have had it.”
Christine Feuerbacher, director of development at The CENTER, said the agency wouldn’t exist without the help of the United Way and generous donors.
“They help us with our overhead expenses, programming that we bring in, ability to supplement income and allowing us to bring in good quality professionals while we’re working on getting them credentialed and self-sustaining,” Feuerbacher said. “We have a funding program that allows individuals who are underinsured to be provided care at a reduced price based on their income.”
The Family Guidance Center offers many behavioral health care services and treats kids from age 5 through adults.
“We provide psychiatry services and medication management,” Hannon said. “We have an onsite pharmacy that people can get their medications at and the benefit of that is if you can’t afford medications, you can get them for free. We offer therapy services with licensed counselors and licensed clinical social workers. We have a case manager; substance use counselors and people that will come to your home and provide services if you don’t want to come into the office and see us.”
The CENTER also offers a wide range of mental health services.
“We have medication management, where they can come in and make sure they’re meeting all their needs,” Feuerbacher said. “We have professional counseling, both individual and family. We also offer mental health assessments, diagnosis and treatment.”
Hannon said, bringing awareness to the importance of mental health helps break down the stigma.
“We know that people in our community are living with mental health conditions or living with substance use disorders but are afraid to seek treatment because of what they have seen on TV or in the media about what it is to live with a mental health condition,” Hannon said. “We really want to help break that stigma down and let people know that treatment is available in our community.”
Feuerbacher said mental health is important because it’s something people have to deal with every day.
“Unfortunately even as advanced as we are in our society, mental health still has a stigma,” Feuerbacher said. “We try desperately to provide people with a dignified care that allows them to get better. It’s very important for us to be there and be an organization that exists outside crisis prevention.”
Hannon said she has seen a significant change in how mental health and substance use disorders are viewed in our community and nationally.
“I think some of the things that are helping with that are media attention on behavioral health conditions and people being willing to share their stories and their journeys,” Hannon said. “Every time we have an opportunity to have those conversations, we start to normalize behavioral health conditions and it makes it OK for somebody else to say, ‘I also have that problem and where can I get help?’”
Feuerbacher said she hopes people will continue to see the importance of mental health.
“We hope people are more accepting and understanding that mental health is real,” she said. “The more that we talk about it and are able to educate people about it, the more people will start to understand that it exists and that it’s OK to ask for help.”
The month of September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month, and Family Guidance Center is honoring the month in many different ways.
“We are participating in the local ‘Out of the Darkness Walk,’” Hannon said. “We are also doing some social media work and highlighting different aspects of suicide care and talking some about ways to access crisis care.”