Retiring Bert Nash Adult Services director: A legacy of mental health care

Eunice Ruttinger, retiring Bert Nash Adult Services director, said, "This is the best organization I've ever worked for."

Eunice Ruttinger, retiring Bert Nash Adult Services director, said, "This is the best organization I've ever worked for." by Jeff Burkhead

Eunice Ruttinger, Adult Services Director at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, who will retire Sept. 4, is excited about the next chapter in her life.

But she has mixed emotions about leaving the place she has called her work home for the past 11 years.

“I love Bert Nash. I love what I do here. I love what we stand for,” Ruttinger said. “But at the same time, I’m looking forward to doing some new things.”

One of those things she will be doing is teaching Mental Health First Aid classes at the Center. Ruttinger is a certified trainer of the eight-hour program (the mental health version of CPR training), which is offered through Bert Nash.

“Mental Health First Aid has been a passion of mine,” she said. “I’m excited I will be able to continue to teach classes.”

Ruttinger and her husband, Steve, will remain in Lawrence, which has been their home base even when her job took her to other parts of the state.

Ruttinger began her career in community mental health in the early 1970s in her home state of Wyoming. Her training was as a family therapist through the Menninger Foundation. But she spent most of her career as a CEO, including a 14-year run at Shawnee Community Mental Health Center — now called Valeo — in Topeka, before coming to Bert Nash. At that time, she also had an active role with the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas, where she served as an officer for more than six years and president for two years.

Ruttinger became Adult Services director at Bert Nash in 2004. She has been a member of the Center’s executive team and supervised eight team leaders. Her successor as Adult Services director is Amy Warren, who most recently had coordinated the Bert Nash health home called Health Connections.

Ruttinger's colleagues at the Bert Nash will miss her, and praise her for her contributions to the Center.

“The Kansas mental health system has grown up with Eunice but remains as young at heart as she is,” said Bert Nash CEO David Johnson.

“Thanks in large part to Eunice, we are all better prepared to face the challenges of the future,” said Bert Nash COO Patricia Roach Smith.

While Ruttinger is looking forward to this next stage of her life, she will miss being involved with her colleagues and being part of the cutting-edge services practiced at the Bert Nash Center.

“This is a very exciting time in our history with what’s happening with the discussion about a crisis care unit. That’s the bittersweet part; it will be hard to not be a part of those new things we will be doing,” she said. “But, mostly, I will miss the people — the executive team members who have become very dear to me, then also my team that I supervise, and all the people at the Center. The people here are really remarkable.”

Ruttinger is proud to have been associated with the Center for the past decade and proud of the changes that occurred during her time as Adult Services director.

“Anything related to the development of the evidence-based practices is what I’m most proud of, and what I’ve been most passionate about,” she said. “Because there are really clear protocols about how to do the work, there are measurements about how successful we are, and the outcomes look good as far as clients actually getting better.”

Which, of course, is why she chose to go into the mental health field initially, and why she has been proud to be associated with the Bert Nash Center.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of community mental health centers in Kansas and knowing of lot of them, and I can say unequivocally, this is the best organization I’ve ever worked for,” Ruttinger said. “We have wonderful leadership. They are exceptional and passionate and committed to what they do. The future of Bert Nash is in great hands.”

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