On the front lines of mental health: Valley agencies answer call

Several agencies, including one in Warren, Ohio, are working to help those suffering with mental illness.

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Sitting down and just talking isn’t easy for Nicolette Chapman. She goes to counseling and is on medication for her mental health issues. She’s been getting help to live with her condition for nine years. But her story is not unlike many who suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), more than 43 million Americans deal with mental illness every year.

“I would definitely get the help. It is worth it. It helps you a lot. The medicine helped me over the years because I was way worse than what I am now,” Chapman said.

To help those that suffer with the many forms of mental illness, voters in Mahoning and Columbiana counties passed renewal levies in November supporting mental health agencies.

Locally, there are a number of agencies and services available for people dealing with mental illness, and Chapman is a result of that.

“She has done tremendous. She has made immense strides. I mean her mental illness has gotten a little more severe over the years, but she has been able to follow through with treatment,” said Josette Landis, community liaison coordinator with Valley Counseling.

Chapman and Landis have been working together for five years at Valley Counseling in Warren, a community mental health center, where every client gets a personalized plan. Executive Director Jody Klase knows of many success cases like Chapman’s but also sees first-hand the stigma that comes with mental illness.

“If you break your arm, people run right over to sign your cast. But if you have depression, people tend to walk or run the other way,” Klase said.

Klase said there has been an increase in the need for mental health services but can’t pinpoint why. She said Medicare expansion has provided more opportunity for people to get help.

New approaches are also being tried at the Warren facility such as an open access clinic. Clients can walk into the clinic without an appointment, eliminating the three to four-week wait to see a doctor or counselor.

“If you are in a crisis, we are not going to make you wait three weeks to address it,” Klase said.

As Chapman continues her treatment she is aware that there are good days and bad days. Some days she will shut down and doesn’t want to talk, but she knows that just makes things worse. Her life goals are her focus, now. A major milestone that is just ahead is getting her diploma.

There are 26,000 clients served by mental health and recovery boards in Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties. But that number is just the clients that are on Medicaid or indigent and doesn’t include those on private insurance.

One in five adults experiences mental illness in the United States, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 16 million live with depression and 42 million have anxiety disorders.

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