Networks of Care panel presentations conclude


Angela Mauroni

Lynn McUmber, executive director of the Crawford County Health Awareness Program, presents on recovery from mental illness with panelists Susan Jageman and Sally Burns on Oct. 10, 2015.

In correlation with the Year of Meadville, the final panel discussion of the Networks of Care Series was held on Oct. 10, 2015, and focused on opportunities for recovery from mental illness and homelessness.

The Networks of Care Series was hosted in the Crawford County Mental Health Awareness Program building on Liberty Street from Sept. 19 to Oct. 24, and was largely planned by Meadville’s Systems of Care group.

According to Autumn Vogel, a Year of Meadville Organizer, the Networks of Care Series is aimed at informing people about what opportunities there are in Meadville and teaching them how to better care for each other.

Meadville residents  Jason Elkady and Tammy attend the final Networks of Care panel presentation on mental illness recovery on Oct. 10, 2015
Angela Mauroni
Meadville residents Jason Elkady and Tammy attend the final Networks of Care panel presentation on mental illness recovery on Oct. 10, 2015

“It’s kind of part of this larger effort to share stories, come together, connect and work together to build a sustainable and just future for Meadville,” Vogel said. “Our approach to this year was very much about showcasing and highlighting what’s happening in Meadville.”

Kerstin Martin, another Year of Meadville organizer, said beyond logistics, she and the other organizers left much of the planning to the Systems of Care group, which is a collaboration between human service organizations and consumers.

“Julie [Wilson] and Terry [Bensel] and I laid the groundwork and tried to hand off as much as we could to other organizations,” Martin said.

The previously scheduled events included presentations about the impact of adversity through life, food security and being an active bystander. To conclude the series, the organizers are encouraging people to participate in Make a Difference Day and the Meadville Time Trade for the last two scheduled Saturdays.

Vogel had high hopes for the events and its potential for success.

“I hope that folks walk away with a better understanding of how to care for their neighbors and themselves, what resources are here in Meadville that people can use when they need them,” Vogel said. “I think it’s important to know about those resources before…it’s absolutely in crisis mode.”

Bruce Harlan, the community representative of the Systems of Care group and the executive director at Women’s Services, Inc., has been happy with the panels.

“I think they’ve been quality presentations,” he said. “Very informative.”

The presentation on the opportunities for recovery fell on Oct. 10, which is also World Mental Health Day. After a brief introduction by Lynn McUmber, the executive director at CHAPS, panel participants Susan Jageman and Sally Burns shared their personal stories about reaching recovery.

Jageman and Burns both previously sought aid from CHAPS and now work there, finding meaning in helping others facing similar challenges.

After finding that much of her recovery from bipolar disorder came from acceptance, Burns began working with the support groups at CHAPS, helping others come to terms with their illnesses as well.

“To me, that’s the most important part of a support group—not being alone,” she said.

According to Lynn McUmber, this is not unusual for CHAPS clients.

“While we’re calling this recovery, it doesn’t look the same for every person who walks through the door. I often see people come in for service and then see them supporting someone else,” McUmber said.

At the presentation, McUmber emphasized the importance of supporting someone who is living with a mental illness. She said living with a mental illness is like having to pick parts of life and give them up, such as family, friends, jobs or physical well-being. According to McUmber, believing in the person, having patience, recognizing their strengths and giving them opportunities for success are all crucial to them reaching recovery.

Harlan, who has faith in the success of the series, believes the series should be held again in the future.

“I think this is something we can do every year,” he said.