IMPACT adds mental health to mission

By October 29, 2013April 15th, 2014No Comments

October 29, 2013. The Daily Progress.

When the son of Deb Myers’ friend planned to commit suicide, his mother intended to find him the best inpatient psychiatric treatment in the area.

But, when his mother realized her options, she found herself at a dead end, Myers said.

Only Richmond and Roanoke offered inpatient psychiatric care and she had neither the money nor the social network to send her son so far away.

So, Myers said, “she sought outpatient psychiatric care and was put on a one- to two-month waiting list to see a doctor.”

When she managed to get her son to a doctor sooner, the visit lasted only 15 minutes, Myers said, and medication was prescribed.

“Her son fell into an even deeper depression,” Myers said. “This bright boy who had gotten straight A’s was failing every single course in school.”

According to University of Virginia economics professor Steven Stern, there are large shortages of mental health services in Charlottesville and the surrounding area.

Myers, of Peace Lutheran Church in Albemarle County, and several hundred others, raised their voices in support of a solution Monday evening, when members of local grassroots group Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together, or IMPACT, voted to take on the lack of mental health services in the Charlottesville area.

Each year, attendees at IMPACT’s annual fall assembly choose a local initiative to tackle. This year, members from 25 congregations, which include Jewish and Muslim groups, attended the eighth annual assembly at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Charlottesville.

After months of smaller meetings, three issues – affordable housing, mental health services and unemployment – were put to a vote Monday before members adopted their new initiative.

“Over the past eight years, we have made some great strides across this community,” IMPACT Co-President and Chairwoman Dorothy Jordan said.

Jordan, of Zion Baptist Church in North Garden, was unanimously reelected Monday evening.

After Monday’s vote, Jordan said IMPACT will have three mission tiers in the coming year – a list that now includes mental health services, homelessness and young adult unemployment.

“What we are doing is unprecedented. No other group in this area is bringing in this many people,” she said. “There are 700 nonprofits and we are the only one doing what we do.”

Albemarle County Executive Tom Foley and Charlottesville City Manager Maurice Jones also attended Monday’s meeting, updating IMPACT members on the progress made toward eradicating area homelessness.

With IMPACT’s support, Jones said, the county and city have been able to rehabilitate the Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless.

“This new TJACH has really become a roundtable,” Jones said.

The coalition for the homeless, he said, has applied for $80,000 in county and city funds to work on programs from establishing a housing navigator position to instituting more consistent use of the Homeless Information Management System, an online tool that allows localities to submit data to the U.S. Department of Urban Housing and Development.

“Maurice and I realize that nothing big can be accomplished without the city and county working together,” Foley said. “We’ve made good progress and that will continue.”

IMPACT also is working with authorities at both the University of Virginia Medical Center and Martha Jefferson Hospital, where the organization wants to sponsor pilot job training programs that will provide $90,000 in tuition waivers for young adults looking for work.

There is still work to be done to reach IMPACT’s goals, officials said Monday, but both hospitals are working with the group to develop programs.

The Rev. Jim Richardson, of St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Charlottesville, thanked those attending Monday’s assembly. He encouraged members to continue giving so that IMPACT may achieve its long-range goal to be a self-sustaining nonprofit.

“We have done actually quite well the last few years,” Richardson, the outgoing co-president, said.

In 2010, IMPACT raised approximately $21,000, he said. This year the group is on track to raise more than $50,000.

“Even with all that, that is a fraction of what we need to do all that we do,” Richardson said. “We are still significantly short for balancing our budget for this year … and next year will be no different.”

Robert Bayer, of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, will replace Richardson as co-president.