We would like to thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for entrusting us with such great work; one that resulted in us having to stretch outside of our comfort zone and to cast our nets out into deeper, often-times, unchartered waters! God showed up and brought our infectious, passionate vision to fruition once again. This year we were honored to be able to host the forum at our beautiful-spacious office location, provide free event t-shirts, and offer added support to participants in the form of “Trigger Emotional Support People.”
The Forum was established to foster dialogue among a broad range of stakeholders—practitioners, policymakers, community members, recipients of services, and others—and to provide ongoing opportunities to confront issues of mutual interest and concern. Likewise, the Forum provides a neutral venue for broad-ranging discussions that can aid in coordination and cooperation between public, faith-based, service recipients, and private stakeholders in eradicating the stigma of mental illness.
We extend gratitude to the host of sponsoring vendors which included mental health agencies, health professional associations, faith-based groups, community pantries, and private-sector business; many whom we highlighted the extensive work they have already done on this topic as forerunners advocating for those in our community with mental health challenges.
The sponsoring vendor booths consisted of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Kalamazoo, Disability Network of Southwest Michigan, HelpNet Bronson Employment Assistance Program (Battle Creek, M), Kalamazoo Youth Development Network, Kalamazoo Community Mental Health, Samaritas Battle Creek, Samaritas Kalamazoo, The Office of Senator O’Brien, Aetna Insurance, Recovery Institute of Southwest Michigan, Missional Chaplains, Alternatives, Gryphon Place, Edge Water Music Therapy|Thompson Tutoring, Sea Green Art Therapy and Loaves and Fishes.
The multi-cultural/multi-aged crowd consisted of clergy, mental health professional, lay people, and individuals and their family members who are living with mental illness and developmental disabilities, service providers, college students, parents, siblings, neighbors, and community members. Many lives were impacted by the information and personal testaments that were powerfully shared. People reported feeling safe to share their feelings, empowered, validated, and most importantly understood.
We thank Ms. Latrise for her courage to share her powerful story of living a successful life with a mental health diagnosis and for the heartfelt-moving solo she rendered. Additional, we were equally as moved by Mr. Isaiah’s powerful testimony of a youth living successfully with a mental health diagnosis. It goes without saying, the bliss that was in the room as Mr. Calvin expressed his deep emotional healing through his therapeutic drumming and live artistry. Gratitude is extended to our Mistress of Ceremony, Mrs. Lesa Henry for a Par Excellent job. We sincerely thank the workshop facilitators, Reverend J. Barrett Lee, Monica Robinson and Kimberly Thorpe for presenting cutting-edge information to the participants.
Likewise, we thank to our majestic keynote speaker, Kevin Fischer, Executive Director of NAMI Michigan, for the powerful, transforming address (which literally brought most everyone to tears). Furthermore, we extend thanks to the youth volunteers Young Queens and Kings and to the adult volunteers from Volunteer Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University Lee's Honor College. Additional, we are honored to have been featured as guest of on WWMT Channel 3 that conducted interviews and recorded portions of the forum live. Moreover, we appreciate Public Media Network (PMN) diligence in recording the forum and interviewing select guest for a documentary that they are creating that will highlight the last 11 years of the Mental Health Forum. It will air on PMN channels 187-191 and At&T Channel 99 later this month and next month. Please check the PMN website for specific airing times.
Moreover, we thank our many sponsors for providing the food items, condiments, media materials, and monetary donations. Meijer 5121 S. Westnedge Ave. Westnedge, Harding’s Market Place, Portage, Express Auto, Henry Ghazel, Sarkozy Bakery, MacKenzie's Cafe & Bakery, Wenke Greenhouses, Living Water Ministries, Artwear Apparel Graphics Inc.
Last but not least, we extend gratitude to the Emerging HOPE Board Members Reverend J. Barrett LeeReverend Rachel Meier Laughlin, Senior Pastor - Prince of Peace Lutheran Church Mrs. Celeste TyreeTurnera Croom Dvm, Founder, President at VetsIn3D.com
The data that will be compiled from participant surveys will be presented to our state and local officials to draw attention to existing federal, state, and local policies and protocols for crisis standards of care; to present potential solutions to some of the most difficult challenges such as the proposal to eventually move $2.5 billion of Community Mental Health Medicaid money and service management to private insurers in the state's Medicaid Health Plans. We are grateful to partner with the Greater Kalamazoo community as we work tirelessly to accomplish our mission of inspiring others with a message of hope as we walk alongside them in their struggle and their silence with mental illness.