WellStone Behavioral Health Chief Operating Officer Chris Van Dyke (right) presents WellStone’s and the Cullman Area Mental Health Foundation’s inaugural Martha Hayes Leadership Award to R.E. Garrison Trucking, represented by Sarah Frances Lovell (left) and Wyles Griffith (center), for its establishment of the Stephen K. Griffith Memorial Fund. (W.C Mann for The Cullman Tribune)
CULLMAN – On Wednesday, Wellstone Behavioral Health and the Cullman Area Mental Health Foundation held the Cullman Partners for Hope celebration at Loft 212, bestowing the first leadership award for advancing the cause of mental health in the area.
R.E. Garrison Trucking, represented by Sarah Frances Lovell and Wyles Griffith, received the inaugural Martha Hayes Leadership Award. The company’s owners are family members of local attorney Stephen K. Griffith, who was killed last year by an assailant suffering from mental illness, and they were recognized for establishing a memorial fund in his name to fund programs of the foundation.
According to WellStone Chief Operating Officer and Foundation Treasurer Chris Van Dyke, who made the presentation, the fund provides money for acute inpatient mental health care for patients who cannot otherwise afford it and expanded mental health services through WellStone with the long-term goal of establishing a 24-hour crisis center in the Cullman area. More than $50,000 has been raised in the last three months, and two patients have already received care.
“But most importantly, this community is taking mental health treatment seriously,” said Van Dyke. “People are thinking long-term, working collaboratively to improve access to care. And all of that started with leadership from the Griffith family and R.E. Garrison Trucking.”
The keynote speaker for the luncheon event was Anne Moss Rogers, who became an advocate for mental health care and substance abuse prevention and treatment after the death of her son in 2015. She shared her son’s story and noted the severe lack of access to mental health services in her home state of Virginia. She had little better to say about services in the state of Alabama, noting that both states tend to treat mental illness and substance abuse separately, though the two are often connected, with the mentally ill using drugs to self-medicate. Rogers did, however, laud WellStone’s policy of treating the two together as a great benefit to the people of north Alabama.
In his remarks, WellStone Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Blair told the audience that his company is responsible for educating the community about matters pertaining to mental health and substance abuse, saying, “Together, we can develop solutions for mental health issues that affect our community’s health, education and quality of life. There’s much work to be done, and we cannot do it alone. WellStone wants to partner with you, with our local businesses and with our local and state officials to increase the collective knowledge and awareness of mental illness issues and the cost-effective treatment available to those who are suffering.
“Once we become more aware, we’ll stop seeing mental illness funding as a budget line item obligation, and we’ll start seeing it as an investment in our communities.”
To get help for yourself or someone else
- WellStone access to care – 256-255-1020
- WellStone after-hours crisis line – 256-734-4688
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line – text HOME to 741741
For more on WellStone Behavioral Health, visit www.wellstone.com.
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