The Regional Transit Service (RTS), longtime employee Alan Moore, and scholarship winner Ava Flores were honored at the annual meeting of the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties (MHAGO). The event took place on Oct. 7 at Terry Hills Golf Course with 24 people attending.
MHAGO Executive Director Tom Christensen credited the dedication of the staff for keeping the agency open through the pandemic, noting that as an essential business, MHAGO has remained open to in-person services, with no staff layoffs or reduction of hours.
“The COVID-19 crisis highlighted for us how important everyday mental health and wellness practices are to managing social isolation, anxiety, and stress,” Christensen said. “We believe MHAGO services contributed to the emotional resilience of both our participants and our community during these uncertain times.”
RTS also contributed to the community’s well-being, according to MHAGO, by providing free rides to and from medical appointments – including visits essential for mental health – for the two counties’ residents. John Arneth, RTS’ Regional Manager for Genesee & Orleans, accepted the Constance E. Miller Award of Excellence on behalf of the organization. Constance E. Miller, along with a small group of dedicated volunteers, founded the Mental Health Association in 1993. This award honors her commitment to excellence by recognizing individuals and organizations who work to promote mental wellness, instill hope, and improve the quality of life for people living in Genesee and Orleans counties.
“We had some rigorous protocols to follow in order to keep everyone safe, but we were really happy to be able to continue to provide medical transport services during a time that created a lot of anxiety and fear for people,” Arneth said.
MHAGO recognized Alan Moore as a 25-year staff member. Colleagues described Moore as a mild-mannered, versatile, reliable team member who “quietly supports and encourages (MHAGO) participants.” It was also noted that he models self-care by walking regularly and “getting his steps in” each day.
MHAGO awarded the Board of Directors’ Educational Scholarship to Ava Flores, 2021 graduate of both Oakfield-Alabama High School and Genesee Community College. Flores is now studying psychology at Roberts Wesleyan College. The MHAGO scholarship program provides financial support to individuals pursuing higher education in the fields of human or social services. Flores received $500 toward her studies.
Kylee Criscione, a mental health program specialist from the state Office of Mental Health – WNY Field Office, gave a presentation via Zoom. She noted, aptly, that telehealth visits represent one of several ways MHAGO has stepped up to address
the challenges of meeting community needs.
In the annual report distributed at the meeting, Christensen noted that MHAGO Medicaid Managed Care HCBS services increased in 2020 to become the largest local provider of Mental Health HCBS, with 267 combined in-person and telehealth visits across 271 hours of service. “We look forward to further expansion of managed care services through the State’s newly proposed CORE (Community Oriented Empowerment Services) model,” he wrote.
Other noteworthy 2020 stats:
- A total of 256 persons were served by MHAGO programs, including 186 in the Recovery Center, 147 in the Social Club, and 50 in the Drop-In Center.
- MHAGO’s Recovery Center provided 5,009 combined in-person and telehealth visits across 3,028 hours of service.
- Social Club: 3,397 combined in-person and telehealth visits
- Drop-In Center: 1,726 combined in-person and telehealth visits
- Warmline: 2,852 outreach messages and 5,879 completed calls
- The agency also provided 1,014 one-way trips. All transportation staff also provided outreach telehealth calls and wellness checks during office hours.
MHAGO reported $576,030 total support and revenue, with $618,689 in total expenses. The agency ended 2020 with $129,358 cash on hand. The 2020 Financial Statement and Auditors’ Report were prepared by EFPR Group, CPAs, PLLC. Copies of the Audit and Form 990 may be obtained by request from the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties, 25 Liberty Street, Batavia, NY 14020.
“Even in good times,” Christensen said, “a lack of social engagement has been a leading predictor of poor health outcomes, poor quality of life, and shortened lifespans. With Covid bringing out the worst of these troubles, our staff really stepped up and made a big difference. I’m very pleased with our team.”