Orleans, Genesee merge mental heath associations

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 September 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Sue Gagne, director of the newly merged Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans, addresses the Albion Rotary Club last Thursday. She said the merged agency will offer more services to the two counties.

ALBION Two agencies that promote mental wellness through education, advocacy and support have merged.

The mental health associations in Orleans and Genesee counties officially joined on Sept. 1. Each county will continue to have its own drop-in center. The Orleans County location is at 20 North Main St., the former Cornell Cooperative Extension building next to the Post Office in Albion.

“I believe coming together with this transition will be absolutely wonderful for Orleans County,” said Shirley Pudney-Eilers, wellness director for the MHA in Orleans County.

Sue Gagne is the director of the new combined agency. The board of directors is expected to soon approve the name for the association.

Pudney-Eilers and Gagne both addressed the Albion Rotary Club last Thursday. They said the community will see a more active MHA. In November, for example, the MHA will offer First Aid training with a focus on how to respond to people in a mental health crisis.

The MHA also has a grant to promote workplace wellness, and will offer an upcoming workshop on relaxation on Oct. 20 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Albion location. It also is working with the Suicide Prevention Coalition for a workshop on Nov. 21.

“We still have a long way to go with stigma for people with mental health disorders,” Pudney-Eilers said. “The more we work together, the more we can get things done.”

She said Orleans County has a big geographic area and there are a lot of people with unmet mental health needs. The MHA wants to bolster services for residents with more community-based services “as time goes on,” she said.

The MHA differs from the county mental health departments that provide therapy through counselors and services with caseworkers. The MHA is community-based with a focus to help people live more independently, Gagne said.

“With the drop-in centers people can come in and get peer support,” she said. “We complement their therapy.”

The MHA also provides a 24-7 “warm line” 813-0072 for people to reach out for support in non-emergency situations.

For more information on the MHA, contact the Albion office at (585) 589-1158 or in Batavia at (585) 344-2611.