The Great Recession Hits
The Great Recession, one of US history’s most devastating economic downturns, shook the country from December 2007 to June 2009.
With an estimated 8.8 million jobs eliminated and housing prices down by 40% on average, clinically significant symptoms of depression, generalized anxiety, panic, and drug use became more prevalent. Nationwide, behavioral healthcare had become needed more than ever.
Despite a decline in funding due to this unprecedented event, Meridian did not abandon its vision to promote hope, recovery, and wellness to all by providing even more accessibility options and support programs.
In these tough economic times, supporting our community’s health and well-being is crucial and challenging. The need for services is increasing, yet funding resources are becoming less plentiful. Despite these difficulties, Meridian is still committed to advancing health and wellness by assisting the people we serve in obtaining the services they need.
Paraphrased: Former CEO, Maggie Labarta, Ph.D, 2010 Annual Report
• Rehabilitation, Vocational, and Peer Specialist programs were all expanded to meet the needs engendered by the recession.
• Meridian introduced the Forensic Specialist Team in collaboration with Alachua County’s Mental Illness Workgroup to aid those with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. The program is still active and offers specialized forensic case management to help divert individuals from frequent and lengthy detention into suitable treatment. In the first year, over 400 people enrolled in the program. These participants avoided an average of 52 jail days, saving the criminal justice system a significant sum of $1,615 per person.
• Meridian entered the digital age by adding over 300 computers and introducing its Electronic Health Record system.
MENTAL HEALTH MILESTONE
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008
The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 is federal legislation that prohibits group health plans and insurance companies from imposing restrictions on mental health and substance use disorder benefits but not on medical/surgical coverage.
Record Flooding: In the spring of 2009, Meridian’s Disaster Relief Team mobilized to several communities to provide crisis support and counseling for those affected by the severe flooding of the Suwannee, Withlacoochee, and Santa Fe rivers.
• Meridian continued to strengthen its relationships with community educational institutions to train interns and practicum students, providing work experience to three psychiatric fellows and twelve interns.
• Meridian’s innovative Forensic Specialist Team program, which assists people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system, was recognized with the Davis Productivity Award 2009: Award of Distinction.
By the age of 13, Diana was using illegal drugs.
“I had no relationship with any of my family members. I stole to get what I wanted. I didn’t care who got hurt. At the end, … I pretty much wanted to die. Meridian gave me hope, ‘Maybe I can get through this.’ Without [Meridian’s] support, I would not be clean. I don’t know that I would even be alive.” ~ Diana
AWARDS: The Florida Department of Children and Families gave first place to Meridian’s CARE (Coping with Addiction through Recovery and Empowerment) Program for Most Innovative Program. The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association also gave the program the 2009 Substance Abuse Services Best Practices Award for Innovative Program.
• Meridian began offering Mental Health First Aid certification courses. Participants learn how to identify and respond to potential mental illness or substance use disorders until appropriate professional help can arrive.
For more information: https://www.mbhci.org/treatment-and-service/mental-health-first-aid/
MENTAL HEALTH MILESTONE
Affordable Care Act of 2010
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 was a significant step toward mental health awareness and treatment. Counseling and psychotherapy, previously deemed non-essential, were included under the plan.
“The best thing that happened is multiple sweeping federal laws putting mental health on the same level as physical health,” referencing both The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and the Affordable Care Act of 2010. ~ Keith Humphreys, Professor of Psychiatry
Moments in Time Interview:
Gainesville Billing Specialist
37 Years – Love and Respect
What’s has been the most rewarding part of your experience at Meridian?
Learning that mental illness and substance abuse are treatable disorders. It’s not always easy to ask for help, and it takes a lot of courage to do so. That is why I love and respect each and every patient who enters Meridian’s doors.
Experiencing several changes throughout your 37 years at Meridian. What has changed the most?
I’ve seen the Gainesville campus expand from just the Main Building with only a small handful of programs to eight buildings with a wide variety of programs. I’ve seen the CSU, Bridge House, and Administration buildings constructed from the ground up. I was here when Meridian bought the old DMV and chiropractor’s offices, now the OTP and Buprenorphine/Vivitrol clinics. As Meridian grew, I have had the pleasure to work at each of these buildings’ front desks.
Who has had the greatest influence on you and why?
My first supervisor, Josephine Brown. She had faith in me, and every time I thought I couldn’t do something, she would encourage me that I could. Her support helped me gain self-confidence and confidence in myself.
What has been the most satisfying part of your journey with Meridian?
Observing numbers of people with a mental health or substance abuse disorder improve over time thanks to Meridian’s treatments.
Any Final Thoughts?
I am Meridian, 37 years and counting!
Ms. Brenda, thank you for all your years of being Meridian’s first kind and supportive face, providing comfort to many patients during one of their most uncertain moments. You are Meridian!
We hope you enjoyed this edition of Meridian’s 50th Anniversary series. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please email Cat Adams at the following address: catherine_adams@MBHCI.org
Meridian Annual Reports 2008, 2009 & 2010