Tri-County Mental Health Services has received regional recognition for its efforts to support families and the loved ones of people with a mental illness.
Jamie Wehmeyer, director of Assessment and Youth CPRP Services, has been awarded the Mental Health Professional Award by the Kansas City chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for her work as co-facilitator of the monthly Family Support Group. Board member Jeanne Pyland, her husband Jim Pyland and Bob Marolf received NAMI’s 2011 Family Award at the same meeting this fall.
While the Pylands and Marolf were honored in part for their extraordinary support of an adult son, they and Jamie are all instrumental in helping to develop a range of family-oriented supports at the community mental health center. The efforts include three programs that focus on providing direct help and support.
Jamie said the honors should be shared even more. She cited co-facilitator Lori Byl, as well as several family members who have helped others even as they sometimes struggle themselves. NAMI is also directly involved in two of the support programs at Tri-County.
“There are a lot of people who get credit for all of this,” she said. “That’s part of what makes it effective. We have a number of people who are involved.”
The story goes back almost three years when Jamie and Lori re-established Tri-County’s Family Support Group, which meets the first Wednesday of each month. In the last year Tri-County has become home to an ongoing series of NAMI Family-to-Family sessions that will complete their second “semester” this month. The next series begins in January. Connections made through these two groups led to formation of another support group organized by NAMI. Created at the request of family group members, this third group meets the third Wednesday of each month.
The effort is much more than meetings, however. “It’s been so enlightening to me to be reminded of the impact mental illness has, not just on the person but on the whole community,” Jamie noted. “So many families are out there struggling, and they don’t have that support. Our families are in there saying, ‘We’ve been there, we’ve done it and so can you.’”
Jamie noted the three programs offer different content and are all held at Tri-County. The Wednesday NAMI family support meeting is the most traditional family support group, emphasizing open-ended dialog between family members and others who love and care for someone with mental illness. Jamie sees that as a critical foundation.
“You see families everywhere that don’t know where to turn,” she explained. “But in our meetings, someone from another family will lean over and say, ‘We went through that, too.’ Then they’ll help them connect with a program that can help them or just tell them how they dealt with it. It’s really amazing.”
Tri-County’s family support group includes similar dialog but also features speakers on topics such as medications or legal issues. The most formal effort is the NAMI Family-to-Family program, which is 12-week course taught by trained family members. All of the programs are free.
Not surprisingly, the well-attended meetings often attract some of the same people. The Pyland-Marolf story is a good example. Jeanne, her husband Jim and ex-husband Marolf became involved in family support to help their adult son. They eventually completed the Family-to-Family program and are now among the trainers.
“I feel so proud of our families for stepping up in that role,” Jamie noted. “I think it’s awesome that our family group has done so well and has had so many outgrowths from it.”
For additional information, contact Lori Byl or Jamie Wehmeyer at (816) 468-0400.
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