Goodbye from Executive Director

Dear Friends of Independence Center,

This letter is more personal than most updates we share with you. That’s because it’s my last correspondence with you before my retirement as Executive Director, a few months from now. My last chance, after twelve years serving a mission that’s become very personal to me, to thank you for your loyal support and the financial investment you’ve made in the lives of our Independence Center members. My last opportunity to assure you that you change lives!

I took this position with little background in mental health issues, and greatly surprised family and friends in doing so. “Don’t you find mental health work pretty depressing in itself?” some asked. But my reaction was quite the opposite! I was experiencing close personal encounters with some of the most heroic people I’d ever hope to meet, and I got to witness the triumph of the human spirit every working day. What work could be better?
Many of you, too, have witnessed Independence Center’s mission first hand, perhaps during a tour of our Clubhouse or other programs. You’ve seen members recover, flourish and reach their potential. It’s also a hard truth that many suffer deeply at times, often without family or a network of support. Managing depression, anxiety and severe symptoms of mental illness can involve many roadblocks, but your unwavering support and the determination of our dedicated staff afford a path to resilience for so many.

There are more than 43.8 million adults with mental illness in America – that’s right, 43.8 million! In our ever-changing world of healthcare, our Independence Center team works tirelessly with behavioral health partners to ensure those living with mental illness are not left in the margins of homelessness, isolation, incarceration or the devastating tragedy of suicide.

I cannot tell you how proud I am to be a part of the Independence Center community. I would like to leave you with a story.

One of our remarkable team, Maggie, makes it her life’s work to ensure your support is restoring the lives of those affected by mental illness. Maggie reminds me that our work is not just a job, but a way of life. A way, in fact, of changing lives.

Maggie is a supervisor for Independence Center’s Connect Team. The Connect Team meets patients as they are discharged from the emergency room and assists them with receiving same-day psychiatric and medication management services.

Several months ago, Maggie met a young man named Eli at the doorsteps of our psychiatric program, Midwest Psychiatry. Homeless for over three months, Eli rode the metro every night for a safe place to sleep with only the clothes on his back. He was living with extreme symptoms of paranoia, hallucinations, anxiety, rapid speech and disorganized thinking. During this time in his life, there seemed to be no escape from his illness. He visited the ER over seven times in the past year. This was Eli’s life.

Maggie told Eli about Independence Center’s Clubhouse program and he was eager to join and find a job; however, his symptoms were so severe that both Maggie and the doctor agreed it was important to manage his medication first.

Eli was hesitant, but after weeks of Maggie’s encouragement and reassurance that he would receive wrap-around supports from Independence Center, he made the first step to restoring his life and began taking his medication regularly. He now attends the Clubhouse three times a week and is working towards finding a job. Also, with his symptoms under control, his mom has asked him to move back home.

Way to go, Eli! Way to go, Maggie! And thank YOU for making it all possible! Your friendship is vital to Independence Center’s work and future, and I am personally very grateful to have enjoyed it as well.

Mike sig 2

J. Michael Keller, Executive Director