Sep 7 2018 Erie, PA
To all of you who have been a friend to the MHA, I want to offer my thanks for your support and, that of the entire Erie community, during my 19 year tenure as CEO. It has been a true blessing for me to have had this rare opportunity to lead an organization that is so committed to the ideals of mental health recovery and mental health consumer empowerment. I was very fortunate to be able to assume CEO duties during a very dynamic time in which the mental health consumer movement was coming into its own and saw growth and support from local, state, and federal sectors. During this time, MHA served hundreds of mental health consumers, all trying to find their place in the community by first finding a place that would accept and respect them as cherished human beings. Many are still with us, visiting the Consumer Recovery Center on whatever schedule they choose. Some have become MHA employees. Others have moved on to active lives elsewhere and, yes, some have passed away. But, all saw the MHA as a crucial part of their lives as they struggled to gain control over some powerful illnesses and be a part of something meaningful.
It has been my great privilege to have been accepted as a friend and organization leader by these wonderful people who truly are the MHA. They showed tremendous faith and trust in me despite the fact that I did not share their life experience as a mental health consumer, and tolerance for some decisions or choices with which they may not have agreed. I will be eternally grateful for having had the opportunity to share every working day with people that so few of us get to know better than what we see or hear in the news. To be sure, it is a great misfortune that such opportunities are lacking in the larger culture, leading to ignorance and undeserved stigma. In 19 years I have never feared going to work.
The MHA is being left in good hands as Pat Stucke takes over CEO duties. Its programs will continue to grow and change as the needs and desires of consumers dictate. Slowly but surely, mental health consumers will become more routinely accepted and appreciated as a part of a richer, more diverse community. And I will remain ever grateful for having been given the opportunity by consumers to be a part of their journey.