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Mental health agency holds annual meeting

Guests, employees and interested parties from three counties attended the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of East Central Mental Health Thursday afternoon.

The agency, which serves Pike, Macon and Bullock Counties, recognized and honored several people and groups that serve as sources of funding and support for the mental health services provided by the non-profit organization.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford was on hand for the meeting and welcomed the visitors to Troy and lauded the agency for the services provided to the mentally ill, mentally challenged and substance abusing residents of the tri-county area.

&uot;Ya'll have some of the hardest working people and one of the best organizations,&uot; Lunsford told the audience. &uot;Welcome to Troy. We're proud of the services that you provide.&uot;

Among the other groups singled out by Executive Director Don Schofield for support were the Pike County United Way, the cities of Troy and Union Springs, the county commission of Bullock County and Edge Regional Medical Center. Ben Busbee, CEO of ERMC, was present at the meeting.

Schofield thanked groups for providing money to enable East Central to serve its clients.

&uot;For every dollar that we get, that enables us to get four more dollars in matching funds,&uot; he said.

The keynote speaker of the meeting was provided by Anne Evans, the Director of Policy and Planning for the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. Evans gave a brief motivational talk and profusely thanked the mental health professionals for their contributions to the field and to improving the lives of the clients.

Evans stressed patience, perseverance and belief as key elements for successful mental health care delivery.

&uot;You believe in what you're doing and you make the lives of people with mental illness, mental retardation or substance abuse problems better,&uot; she said. &uot;Your efforts do not go unnoticed.&uot;

Several employees were honored for their service with East Central.

Craig Maddox and Janice Boarden were thanked for five years of service. Carol Hohlbaugh, Malvia Frye, Jane Lambert, Robert Parsons and Betty Stocks were recognized for a decade of service. Carol Booker was honored for 15 years of service and Abbel Anderson was given a rousing ovation for her quarter-century of dedication to mental health.

The annual meeting came at a particularly significant time for mental health services in Alabama. Looming Legislative budget cuts may threaten mental health care to hundreds of thousands of people in the state.

Alabama Mental Health Commissioner Kathy Sawyer has a long career within the mental health agency and has promised to maintain government support for Alabama's 200,000 patients in need of mental health care. However, some state hospitals may be closed as part of a budget-tightening process.

Though that may mean an influx out out-patient treatment for facilities such as East Central, Thursday was not a day for dwelling on the challenges of the future. It was a day to honor the hard work and accomplishments of the people who make up an organization that Evans said was a statewide model of mental health care delivery.