By Katie Sobiech
Did you know that 1 in every 5 adults has a diagnosable mental disorder?
Statistics like this reveal a need for much care and support. But what does that look like?
Community Support Services (CSS) is a shining example of a full-circle facility of care for the mentally ill in Summit County, and has been for nearly 25 years. They consider themselves a “one-stop support center”, providing employment, housing, treatment, pharmacy and more for those dealing with severe mental health issues.
Primary health care, psychiatric services, a laboratory and pharmacy are all brought together at this one site.
“(It’s) kind of the full-spectrum of services from residential treatment to case management, or what we refer to as CPST (Community Psychiatric Supportive Treatment), psychiatric services, vocational employment and counseling groups,” Kimberly Mills, Director of Quality Education Marketing at Community Support Services, said.
Their goal is to provide comprehensive healthcare with an emphasis on community based services.
“It’s really based on the client and the services are directed by the client. At the center of everything we do is recovery, that’s kind of the philosophy,” she explained.
A Great Need
Mental disorders greatly affect one’s ability to live life “normally”.
The majority of mental illnesses they see on a daily basis include schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, major depressive disorder and personality disorder.
Without help for these issues, the world would be a drastically different place.
When asked what would happen if places like this did not exist, Mills replied “It’s scary to think that could or would happen. I think we’d see more people incarcerated. Sometimes when people have mental illnesses (and) need money, they will commit a crime. If people aren’t taking their medications they can potentially act out, become argumentative, and get in fights with people. Families would suffer greatly because we would see more challenges within families,” she explained.
Mental Illness and Homelessness
The truth is that many individuals left with an undiagnosed/untreated mental illness become homeless. There is no way for them to survive in this world without the support they need that is crucial to their well-being.
“One of the unfortunate things you see is there are a lot of individuals who have mental illness and choose to be homeless. We work to engage them,” Mills said.
Their Alphonso W. Turner Homeless Outreach Center located at 640 Wolf Ledges was built for this reason. There the homeless can do their laundry, take a shower, have access to phones, comfortable seating and shelter from outside elements.
“They have food vouchers, coffee, a warm place that people can come to, a washer and dryer – the kind of amenities that we may take for granted if we don’t need that,” Mills said.
CSS finds this to be a great outreach to those who are living under bridges, in parks or wherever else they may set up their “home” for the night.
“Then hopefully we can engage them in mental health services once the person has come to trust us,” Mills said.
Other than the homeless who have nothing, most of the individuals that they serve are living on about $700 a month, which mills says is even a huge challenge.
This is why they find it crucial to make life easier in any other way they can for their clients.
Promoting the Arts
One way they create happiness in the lives of their clients is getting their minds off of their mental illness and what’s wrong in life and providing an opportunity for them to escape into the arts.
Paintings and artwork done by clients are framed on the walls of the center, which Mills smiles at when she walks by.
“A very interesting story,” she says is “One of our clients was a childhood neighbor of the Black Keys.”
This client, Alfred McMoore, suffered with schizophrenia.
He has since passed away, but now has a fund established in his name.
McMoore is known for leaving voicemail messages saying ‘Your black key is taking too long’ – an expression that no one quite understood.
“He would leave that on the answering machine at one of the Black Key’s member’s homes and they took it as their band name when they came together,” Mills explained.
Black Key’s Contribution
In 2009, when McMoore passed, the Black Keys had a concert in honor of him. From there, the Alfred McMoore Black Keys Memorial Fund was established through the Akron Community Foundation.
“This year the Black Keys decided to really give back to Akron and Community Support services and designated us and a national music school to (receive) proceeds from their 2012 tour,” Mills said.
The tour goes through December of this year.
“Our goal, with that money, is to further arts within the agency for our clients. We have so many talented individuals we don’t always have the ability really to nurture whatever their art passion is,” Mills said.
When asked what it’s been like working at CSS for the past 14 years, Mills says “It’s one of those things that’s even hard to capture in words”.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week where Jessica Sikorski, a client at CSS, will share her story on what life is like dealing with mental illness. For more info go to: http://www.cssbh.org