DATE: February 26, 2009
TO: Town Council
FROM: Carlo Robustelli, Mayoral Aide,
Andrew Pham, Mayoral Intern
SUBJECT: Mayor’s Mental Health Task Force Public Listening Sessions #1 and #2
February 24, 2009: 6:00-7:30 PM and February 25, 2009 5:30-7:00 PM Town Council Chambers
Task Force Members Present: Natalie Ammarell (Chair), Linda Foxworth, David Chapman, Jan Gerard, Gwen Harvey, Thava Mahadevan, Anna Schyett, Mark Sullivan, Michelle Turner, Judy Truitt, Clay Whitehead.
Staff Members Present: Carlo Robustelli, Andrew Pham
The purpose of these meetings was to allow the Task Force to listen to the public regarding their concerns with the mental health system in Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas.
Public Listening Session #1
Mayor Foy explained the origins of the Task Force and emphasized the charge to “create broader awareness of mental health care issues in Chapel Hill and generate discussion”.
Lisa Hamill, President of the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County made a presentation to the Task Force outlining the purpose of NAMI and several ways to effect change locally. Ms. Hamill suggested that constituents write Gov. Perdue asking her not to cut the mental health services budget and sign a petition to support mental health services funding.
Chris Moran and Laurie Tucker presented on behalf of the Inter-Faith Council. The speakers encouraged the Task Force to look into community solutions such as: a 24/7 drop-in center, increased communications among local organizations, and more social workers in shelters.
Joanna Bowen, a mother of four, the three youngest have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, recounted her experiences with the local mental health care system. Ms. Bowen suggested that the Task Force look into ongoing support for mentally ill patients, the gap in care for the 18-25 demographic and support for the family and friends of the mentally ill.
Meagan Strickland and Christina Olson both spoke as members of the UNC Campus Y’s HOPE Program. They informed the Task Force that they are working on a documentary about homelessness which has intersections with mental illness.
Gove Elder spoke about his experience with the mental health care system and NAMI. Mr. Elder also made the Task Force aware of the grassroots organization Faith Connection that increases local awareness of the mentally ill people within faith communities.
Public Listening Session #2
Representative Verla Insko spoke to the Task Force about the origins of state reform and talked about some of the shortcomings of the system. She outlined a variety of steps that HHS Secretary Cansler has already initiated to make improvements.
Jami Purser of the Orange County Organizing Committee (OCOC), a faith-based community group, recommended that the Task Force look into after hours and weekend services for the mentally ill. The OCOC has begun to explore into the feasibility of round the clock clinical services based on a model in Durham.
Diane Whitney, an occupational therapist at UNC Hospitals, asked the Task Force stressed the need for post-hospitalization continuing care. Ms. Whitney stressed that much can be done at the community level.
Donna K. Smith, who has extensive background in mental health, told the Task Force about her experiences with her son in the system. Ms. Smith explained how difficult it was for her and her son to navigate the system despite her own experience. Ms. Smith advocated for more education for the families of the mentally ill since they are the primary caregivers for patients.
Natalie Ammarell read an email from Rosemary Hutchinson asking for the support of UNC’s STEP clinic as a model for the rest of the state.
The Task Force adjourned until its next meeting on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 4PM in the Town of Chapel Hill Library’s conference room.