By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- The Mental Health Association in Indian River County started off 2013 with some uncertainty, but is now excited and optimistic about the future.
With new interim President and CEO Dr. Robert Brugnoli and a new board of directors, the Mental Health Association is positive that this year individuals with mental health issues will still have the help they need, thanks to reinstated funding from philanthropic individuals and organizations.
The Mental Health Association is an advocate in the community to increase awareness for mental health in the community, to reduce the stigma and work to find successful treatments.
"The nonprofit operates a walk-in center for individuals to receive help by appointment and last year about 2,000 people were served," said John Taylor, spokesman for the nonprofit.
Three drop-in centers, places for social and education activities relating to mental health, are also overseen by the Mental Health Association. The locations are in Vero Beach, Okeechobee and Stuart and last year they had nearly 10,000 visitors, he said.
"Moving forward, the board is focusing on the finances of the organization so there will be funding to keep the current programs moving and bring more to the table for mental health awareness and education," Mr. Taylor said.
Putting together long-term and short term plans are also a priority for the board, and the groups' outlook on the future is positive, Mr. Taylor said.
Late last year, some of the funding partners for the nonprofit withdrew their financial support because of disagreements about leadership decisions. As a result of the discord, the CEO resigned and the board reorganized.
Since them, several funding partners have reevaluated their position and have decided to once again support the nonprofit financially, including partners such as the United Way and the Indian River County Hospital District.
Ann Marie Suriano, spokeswoman for the hospital district, said her organization's own board listened to the plans of the Mental Health Association before joining back up, and are confident enough to continue this year's monetary contribution to the nonprofit.
"One of the Indian River County Hospital District's concerns includes ensuring continued access to mental health services for the most vulnerable of its residents," Ms. Suriano said in an email.
Moving forward, the district will request quarterly updates on the financial viability of the nonprofit and desires to see a sustainable business model, she said.
Michael Kint, CEO of the United Way of Indian River County, said although his organization withheld their financial support for slightly longer than a month, by the time the support was reinstated, a payment had not yet been missed.
"We are very excited and very pleased with the new board and how they have stepped in and stepped up," Mr. Kint said. "Ensuring a continuum of care in the mental health sector is crucial."
"There's not much of a safety net for those in our community, that's why we've always been supportive of the Mental Health Association, because mental health issues cut across pretty much all of the programs we fund," he said.
For more information about the Mental Health Association in Indian River County, visit www.mhairc.org.