Two Perryville, Mo., women who were teachers and counselors at the high school there 30 years ago, saw a need and worked to fill it. Jeannette Boehme, a counselor and language arts teacher, and Evelyn Hinni, who was head of the English department at Perryville High School, saw children who needed mental health services, dysfunctional families -- and a need for treatment for these people.
Boehme came from Boulder, Colo., Wednesday night to help the board members and employees of Community Counseling Center celebrate its 30th anniversary and to receive an award for her early work and her continued support.
Boehme recalled that she and Hinni were apprehensive about approaching the Perry County board about putting the tax on the ballot, and were relieved when the commissioners listened and within 10 minutes voted to do it.
"We thought they were going to put it on the ballot in April, on the school board ballot," she recalled. "They put it on the November ballot. This was September."
It meant scrambling to make phone calls to pass the measure, but it worked. Eventually, the need for services grew and now the service area includes five counties: Perry, Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve, Madison and Bollinger. The center is also accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
According to Dr. John Hinni, Evelyn Hinni's son, in the last 10 years alone, the number of clients has doubled to 6,265. In the past 10 years, 70 more staff members have brought the total to 190 and the budget has grown from $4 million to $7 million. The administrative staff has decreased by three people.
"We are leaner and more efficient," Hinni said. "These are the kinds of things that happened because of every person in this room."
Hinni thanked the staff, volunteers and clients who support the center, and mentioned also their families and friends because "you do without so other people can live a better life. That places you on a higher list of humanity, in my opinion."
Angela Lee, a former client who is now a social work student at Southeast Missouri State University, told of her experience with paranoid schizophrenia. After her doctor weaned her off her medications, thinking she was able to function without them, Lee relapsed and her family lost track of her. She's now back home, attending classes, raising her daughter, and very enthusiastic about the services she gets from the center.
"Thank God for you," she said.
The speaker for the evening event at the Drury Lodge was Dean Settle of Lincoln, Neb., who conducted the center's survey prior to its being accredited. Settle predicted an increased need in mental health services in the coming years, especially as the population ages. He added that combined services, such as treatment for both mental illness and addiction, will become more and more necessary. Accreditation is a milestone, he said, that will help the center to keep up with changing demands.
"Accreditation should be a source of pride and public good will," he said. "It's a public affirmation of a job well done. This should serve you well."
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