By MEGAN HUGHES
Community Mental Health in Wakefield welcomed chief executive officer Melissa Hall. Originally from Chatham, a town in Alger County, Hall brought 23 years of experience to the job.
Her work in the physical health care field began in 1998, when she accepted a position at the Munising Memorial Hospital as an executive secretary.
“I worked 21 years in Munising, in their hospital. I started there as executive secretary, my last role there was Chief Executive Officer.,” said Hall.
Along the way she earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University in 2015 and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from North Central University of San Francisco in 2017.
From there, she took a position in Iron Mountain at the Marshfield-Dickenson Cancer Center.
“I ran their cancer center for two years before coming here,” she said.
Hall said she thought the job sounded interesting, having been familiar in working in rural physical health for 23 years.
“My oldest child is a certified behavioral analyst. I chatted with her about it and there is such a link between physical health and mental health. It fascinates me,” she said.
“I’ve been spending time getting to know people and getting comfortable with mental health. I have a lot to learn,” said Hall. Hall said the majority of her work centers around seeking applicants for jobs, planning for future CMH projects and meeting with boards.
While the job presents challenges, Hall said she looks forward to being here for years to come.
Recruitment is a big challenge. “Trying to find staff in the U.P. There are shortages and we are competing for very few candidates,” she said.
Now that she has been settled into her position for over a year, Hall has had some time to adjust, and has seen several projects take place.
“It’s been a quick year and a half,” said Hall. She said most of their projects have involved minor building updates.
“I have a great group here. They know their stuff and I know that I can trust them when I had questions or need answers,” she said. “We have a lot of requirements, not unlike a hospital.
The Community Mental Health offices operate as an outpatient, therapy and case management facility, according to Hall. “We have just a little over 100 employees.” “Our primary goal is to allow people with severe mental illness or disease to be a part of society and live and thrive on their own. We strive to end the stigma surrounding mental illness,” said Hall. “We have many, many techs that go out into the field and help people go grocery shopping, take them to appointments, and help them live independently.”
One of the services that Hall is particularly proud of is their juvenile justice program, which is aimed on keeping youths off of probation and out of the judicial system. “We are very much a model for the state,” said Hall.
Hall said the public and her staff often wish CMH could do more, but the organization is governed by regulations.
“I think people get frustrated by processes,” said Hall, “Like the screening process. We are dictated strictly by our region, which is home based out of Marquette, but also by the state, that things have to be done in a particular way.”
Hall explained that the screening process can be frustrating due to CMH’s limitation on what kind of cases they can accept for their programming. “The state took away our right to serve anybody but severe cases. Anybody with mild to modest mental illness can’t really get services here, and it frustrates people. … We absolutely want to provide that service to more people, but we just can’t.”