People with mental disabilities deserve opportunity |

People with mental disabilities deserve opportunity

Phil Middleton

Opportunity. The American Heritage College dictionary defines opportunity as a favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances; a chance for progress or advancement.

The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors recently proclaimed May as Mental Health month. They stated, in part, that “persons with mental disabilities as well as those who suffer acute emotional distress deserve our understanding, respect, compassion and support.” Persons with mental disabilities also deserve the opportunity to get better and overcome their symptoms of mental illness. My thoughts for May as Mental Health month focuses on viewing mental health services as an opportunity for many people in our community to improve the quality of their life. But the opportunity for treatment is only part of the picture.

Your local mental health clinic serves hundreds of South Lake Tahoe residents by providing a wide range of mental health services to both children and adults. These include emergency services, individual counseling, medication, day rehabilitation and case management. We also participate in a number of collaborative efforts with other community agencies. For example, the Primary Intervention Program is a 12-year-old collaboration with the Lake Tahoe Unified School District to provide special services to at risk children in kindergarten through third grade. We conduct a dual diagnosis group in concert with Sierra Recovery Center for residents who have both a substance abuse problem and mental illness. We work closely with the State Department of Rehabilitation under a special federal grant to provide vocational services to individuals who experience psychological barriers to employment. We provide mental health services to the Department of Social Services for CalWorks participants trying to obtain meaningful employment and get off public assistance. Recently, we received a state grant to provide a wide array of services to individuals in our community with mental illness who are homeless or incarcerated. This program is called the Tahoe Opportunity Project.

We are also fortunate to have some of the most experienced and talented mental health professionals in our community working at the clinic. They are dedicated to providing the highest quality service to our clients. We have an outstanding group of concerned citizens who serve on our Mental Health Commission and an active local chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill who provide advocacy, education and support for individuals with mental illness and their family members.

These wonderful mental health resources certainly represent favorable and advantageous circumstances for our community and an opportunity for progress or advancement in the quality of life for individuals suffering from mental illness. Taking advantage of these opportunities, however, is the other part of the picture to living a better life. Seeking help is the critical step a parent, child or an adult with mental illness must purposefully take in order to actually experience improvement with their problems or symptoms. Asking for help requires courage, a sense of hopefulness, willingness to change and hard work. But it is this step that is the essential ingredient to take advantage of these wonderful opportunities and to realize the benefits of what can be accomplished. Those who have taken this step have my respect and admiration and those who are considering taking this step have my encouragement and my hope for a better life.

Phil Middleton Ph.D. is the program manager for El Dorado County Mental Health

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