By MICKI SORENSEN

Gogebic Community Mental Health Authority

WAKEFIELD – Gogebic Community Mental Health Authority in Wakefield provides an array of treatment and support services for individuals with serious mental illness, serious emotional disturbance, cooccurring disorders, and intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families.

Some of the services include screening/referrals for community inpatient care, case management, therapy, jail diversion screenings, medication review/administration, applied behavioral analysis treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder under 21 years of age, home based programming for youth and families, community living supports, supported-integrated employment services, and assertive community treatment. CMH also manages three community housing adult residential homes which provide 24-hour care for consumers with specials needs in our community.

2023 has been a year of change for CMH. In June, Chief Executive Officer Melissa Hall passed away unexpectedly, and Tess Greenough was chosen by the Gogebic CMH Board of Directors to take over as the interim CEO.  Greenough’s career at CMH began in 2008 when she was hired as a children’s therapist and case manager. She later took on more responsibilities. She was promoted to clinical director in 2014 and was named deputy director in 2022. She is a Wakefield native who graduated from Wakefield High School in 1991and Gogebic Community College in 1993. She earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage in 2001.

Throughout the year, CMH participated in various health and resource fairs and other events at locations throughout the area including Gogebic Community College, Watersmeet area, the Ironwood Area Resource Fair, the Pride Festival, and the Gogebic Range Health Foundation’s Gogebic Range Ride and Run event. During these events staff were on hand to provide informational handouts and answer questions about mental health services CMH provides and how to access services in Gogebic County.

In April, CMH was able to provide a youth-based mental health first aid training to various local school staff members which provides participants skills to help youth who may be developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Participants learned a five-step action plan which includes assessing risk, respectfully listening to and supporting the individual in crisis, and identifying appropriate professional help and other support. They were introduced to risk factors and warning signs for mental health or substance use problems, engaged in activities that build understanding of the impact of illness on individuals and families, and learned about evidence-supported treatment and self-help strategies.

CMH’s 11th annual Walk-A-Mile event to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental illness and intellectual/developmental disabilities was held in September at the Wakefield VFW. CMH’s Anti-Stigma Committee, in collaboration with the Gogebic Range Suicide Prevention Council, spearheaded the annual event. More than 130 registrants showed up for the event and participated in a short symbolic walk along the south shore of beautiful Sunday Lake. The theme of this year’s event was “Courage is knowing when to ask for help.”

In October, with the help from a grant received through the Gogebic Range Health Foundation and Jonathan A. Erickson Memorial Fund and a generous donation from the Gogebic Range Suicide Prevention Council, CMH was able to bring speaker Brian Williams of Reno, Nevada, to speak to elementary students in six local schools about kindness. His highly energetic presentations captivated students and challenged them to compete against other schools throughout the nation to see who could complete the most random acts of kindness in their schools and communities. He rallied the students to become “kindness ninjas,” noting that even the smallest kind acts such as a smile or saying hello can help others feel better and create a domino effect of happiness and good deeds.

Unlike so many other anti-bullying programs, Brian never mentioned the dreaded “bullying” word so often used nowadays, but instead he focused on positivity to empower students to treat others with respect and kindness. Each school also received access for one year to Brian’s videos and curriculum to utilize for various kindness lessons/projects or as gentle reminders about the messages Brian brought to them.

CMH wishes everyone a healthy and safe 2024. If you or someone you know is in need of help or perhaps you are unsure if you need help, please contact the CMH Crisis Line at800-248-0032. You can also call or text 988 (tollfree)for the 24/7 National Suicide & Crisis Life line for support available to you or anyone you know experiencing mental health related distress such as thoughts of suicide, mental health or substance abuse crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. “It takes courage to ask for help!”

Editor’s note: Micki Sorensen is corporate compliance liaison and quality improvement coordinator at the Gogebic Community Mental Health Authority, located at 103 West U.S. 2 in Wakefield.

Gogebic CMH Helps Many in Community