President & Chief Executive Officer, Behavioral Healthcare Partners of Central Ohio Inc. (BHP)
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. At Cramer, we support and admire the amazing work that so many nonprofits do to end the stigma surrounding mental health beyond the month of May. Our partners at Behavioral Healthcare Partners of Central Ohio Inc. (BHP) do that and more.
BHP is a private, nonprofit behavioral healthcare organization that provides integrated mental health and addiction treatment services for youth, adults, and families. With locations in Licking and Knox Counties, BHP prides itself on offering 24/7 Crisis Intervention Services. In our effort to have more meaningful conversations about mental health, we invited our friend and partner, BHP’s President & CEO Kathryn St. James, Psy.D. to provide her perspective on this important topic.
Hear from Kate in her own words with our Q&A session below!
Q: From your perspective and experience, why are organizations that focus on mental health and urgent mental health care services so vital to our communities?
A: Mental health is an important part of the human experience.
Every person alive has emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that directly affect how we feel about life, our experiences, and our relationships. Sometimes, much like our physical health, our mental health can become “ill” and we need help getting better. This is normal and nothing to be embarrassed about.
When individuals go without treatment for emotional/behavioral/mental illness, there is the very real potential for things to get worse. Sometimes this can mean needing more intensive and emergency-level treatment. Treatment is highly effective and can make a world of difference in how someone feels and functions in their life.
Our mental and emotional states have such a large impact on our overall health and sense of well-being. By getting the right treatment at the right time, people can recover and feel better. This is why BHP’s Care Now Clinic urgent care services are so vital to our community. With the increasing demand for mental health services, there is a corresponding increase in the wait time to get treatment. BHP’s Care Now Clinic makes accessing care easy with virtually no wait. It allows individuals to determine when they are ready for treatment and not the other way around. We are proud of the Care Now Clinics and the assistance our staff is providing to the community.
Q: What led you to your current position with Behavioral Healthcare Partners, and what is the most rewarding part of what you do?
A: My road to Behavioral Healthcare Partners was both intentional and providence. I am a firm believer that you are led to where you are meant to be, and I have never felt more at home than I do at BHP. I started my professional career as a clinical psychologist with an additional master’s certificate in business administration with a specialty in nonprofit management.
My first true administrative role was in graduate school as the center manager at a behavioral health organization in Cincinnati. I managed their Family and Child Development Center as part of their women’s addiction treatment program. Even though my doctoral degree required me to do individual clinical treatment, I always knew my passion and path was to lead change at the systems level.
After practicing for a few years in New Hampshire, I was tapped to become the next executive director of the New Hampshire Psychological Association. In addition to my role as executive director, I also served as the association’s lobbyist. This gave me the opportunity to both experience and effect policy related to the behavioral health system in New Hampshire and at the national level in Congress. Being from Central Ohio, the pull to return was strong. I accepted a short-term position for a women’s treatment facility as an interim CEO, which gave me the opportunity to look for my next long-term position. I am fortunate that during this time the position of president and CEO opened at BHP.
The most rewarding part of what I do is everything (okay, not everything—emails bum me out). Truly the most rewarding thing is seeing the impact we make as an organization, not only with the community and the people we serve, but also our staff. Being able to go to bed every night and know that at some point during the day somebody’s life was a little better, makes me so proud of what we do. I am honored and humbled to lead this amazing organization.
Q: Any words of wisdom for someone who is looking for ways to help end the stigma of mental health in their community?
A: Learn what you can from reputable sources about mental health. Get the facts so that you don’t personally perpetuate myths and stereotypes.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) puts out great information. Listen to others’ stories to understand their experience and how mental illness affects and shapes their lives.
Advocacy can be done at many different levels. You can support a local behavioral health organization or advocacy group. Volunteer or serve on the board of one of these organizations. Or, simply speak the facts and don’t let others perpetuate myths or stereotypes related to mental illness.
Talking about mental illness in a factual and kind way helps to demystify it and bring dignity to the people who are experiencing mental illness. This can go a long way in helping to humanize their experience.
Thank you for your invaluable insights, Kate! To learn more about Behavioral Healthcare Partners of Central Ohio, visit their website here.