This year, Sandy Myers celebrates her 30th year with Coleman Professional Services. As Nelson Burns and the top management team can endorse, Sandy has been instrumental in the expansion of our behavioral health services, both across the area and the depth of services.
This post will give you an up close and personal view of Sandy – what she accomplished in the past, how she’s seen the industry change, and what the future holds for her and her family.
In 1989, she was hired as the Director of Vocational Services which is a service that’s important to Coleman’s mission even today. Employment Services works in conjunction with area agencies that have an interest in assisting youth and adults obtain and maintain employment.
Today, she’s the Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations, responsible for the behavioral health services we offer in the Ohio nine-county region we serve.
How Things Have Changed
When asked how the organization she works for and the behavioral health industry has changed over the last three decades, this is what Sandy said, “Thirty years ago, behavioral health providers operated like “experts” of mental health services advising and directing the people served in treatment.
“The most significant change is that our system of services moved to a collaborative approach that hopefully feels more like a partnership between provider and person served. This approach is so much more respectful and empowering to the patient with set goals toward recovery.
“Coleman has always employed people with disabilities as employment services have been a core service since the inception of the company. More recently, Coleman and behavioral health, in general, employ people with lived experience as Peer Supporters. The addition of Peer Supporters has helped to not only encourage people served by benefitting from the wisdom of people with similar experiences, but has also changed the culture of Coleman and community mental health. Peer Supporters helped to diminish the separation of Staff and Clients. We’ve become more inclusive with less “them” and “us.” I’m proud to say Coleman employs 21 Peer Supporters.”
Sandy went on to share how her clinical training and early work experiences emphasized the need to address trauma in treatment. In the late 80s and early 90s, as Evidence-Based Practices moved toward Cognitive Behavioral Treatment, where focusing on the trauma was no longer considered a best practice. She’s so grateful the industry has swung back to recognizing the impact of trauma on mental health and addressing trauma at a much grander scale as behavioral health specialists attempt to deliver trauma-informed treatment in trauma-informed environments.
Sandy’s most notable accomplishment was serving on the management team that helped to develop Coleman’s business model to sustain Coleman through even the most difficult times. This model has allowed Coleman to:
- Grow and increase the accessibility of services in nine counties
- Provide open access clinics for people initiating services, thus eliminating wait times. Once enrolled in services, the average wait times from referral to the first service in Counseling, Case Management, and Psychiatry beat the national benchmarks averaging five days for Case Management, ten days for Counseling, and 30 days for Psychiatry.
Conversely, her most significant challenge is keeping a balanced focus on clinical services while attending to the business of behavioral health.
Her Education and Experience
She was the first person in a large extended family to have the opportunity to go to college in Springfield, Illinois at Sangamon State University, which is now the University of Illinois, Springfield. She feels her undergraduate and graduate school experience was extraordinary as the faculty were what she calls “ex-patriots.” They were trained by the psychology legends at the time and left ivy league schools for Sangamon State because they wanted to teach and practice. They mentored and collaborated with students and created work experiences in human services through large grants. She believes this support and training prepared her for the work at Coleman.
“I’m so fortunate to have had ongoing support and mentoring from Nelson Burns so that I can, in turn, provide some teaching and mentoring to the next generation of Behavioral Health leaders,” Sandy shared.
What the Future Holds
She and her husband are Illinois natives who are eager and grateful for the opportunity to move back to Illinois to be close to family and old friends when they retire. “I tell people I want to relive some of the languorous days of childhood when my senses were keen to the sounds, smells, tastes, and looks of summer,” stated Sandy.
How You Can Help
Here are Sandy’s top four requests to improve the behavioral health environment.
- Stop the stigma attached to mental health.
- Consider donating to Coleman.
- Volunteer with our organization.
- Become a NAMI member. Increasing NAMI participation can be significant for the people the organization serves.
Sandy believes doing one, two, or all of the items above will increase opportunities for community engagement in socialization, education, recreation, or work that can significantly impact people’s lives.