Forty-three-year-old Lorraine Cannistra credits Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center for helping put her life back on track and giving her hope for the future.
Cannistra, who has cerebral palsy, said she thought she could handle her mental health challenges on her own. But she couldn’t.
“My world just came crashing down at one point. Eventually, I found my way to Bert Nash, and they helped me navigate what was wrong with what I was doing and gave me the skills to interact with people better,” she said.
She was among 10 community members who spoke Monday evening about Bert Nash’s services during its annual Pioneer Celebration. The event, held at Maceli’s, was attended by about 100 people.
Cannistra said she was diagnosed with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder. She began receiving Bert Nash services about 12 years ago and currently receives case management once a week.
“I have a whole lot of hope for the future. I’m getting close to being employed part-time,” she said. Cannistra has a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. She hopes to combine the skills and become a grant writer.
“I think the services that I have received at Bert Nash have helped me develop more into the person that I want to be,” she said. “Left to my own vices, I have periods of depression and periods of intense anger and that’s not how I want to be.”
She received a standing ovation.
Patricia Roach Smith, chief operating officer at Bert Nash, said the more people talk about their mental illness, like Cannistra, the better, because talking helps reduce the stigma.
“The more we talk about it, the quicker we get treatment and the more effective the treatment,” Roach Smith said. She said one in four people would suffer a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. “That is a whole lot of us.”
Among the event’s honorees were Douglas County Commissioners Jim Flory, Mike Gaughan and Nancy Thellman and County Administrator Craig Weinaug. They received the Pioneer Award for continuing to fund Bert Nash with about $2 million per year.
Roach Smith said the funding is crucial because the center’s state funding has been cut 65 percent since 2008. Despite the cut, Bert Nash is committed to serving anyone regardless of ability to pay. It charges fees based on a sliding income scale.
“That sliding fee scale is underwritten by Douglas County through the support they provide to us. It’s a very important piece to making sure all of our citizens are served and have good mental health,” Roach Smith said.
In 2011, Bert Nash received $9.8 million in funding and spent $10.1 million. Its top funding sources:
• Fees for services — 54 percent.
• County funds — 22 percent.
• State funds — 9 percent.
• Grants — 5 percent.
It served 5,531 individuals last year: 35 percent were ages 18 and under, 46 percent were between 19 and 40; and 19 percent were older than 41. Forty-six percent were males, and 54 percent were females.
Depression and anxiety were its top diagnoses.
Bert Nash also recognized two employees with its coveted Sandra Shaw Spirit Award, which is named after the late Sandra Shaw, who served as CEO at Bert Nash for 22 years. The award is chosen by the staff, which includes 180 part-time and full-time employees. The winners:
• Stephanie Shelley, financial manager, a 17-year employee.
• Joe Harris, receptionist for Community Support Services, a 13-year employee. He works with clients who have severe and persistent mental illness.
“I enjoy helping clients in the community and seeing them getting better and just knowing I have a part in that,” he said.