After 16 plus years, Sue Gagne is leaving the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Genesee and Orleans Counties. The search process for the new executive director has begun. Michele Sformo, assistant executive director, will serve as interim executive director.
Gagne began her career at the MHA in a part-time support position. After several promotions over the years, she was named executive director in 2013. Gagne is only the third executive director to serve the organization since its founding in 1993.
“We’ve had three extraordinary executive directors over the course of our history,” said Russell Cornman, board president. “All have had a deep, shared commitment to our mission and, at the same time, each has brought their own unique skill set and passion to the position.”
Incorporated 23 years ago, the MHA was started by a dedicated group of volunteers, led by Constance E. Miller. Their vision was to provide support services for those suffering from mental illness in Genesee County and, after years of planning, the Social Club opened in a small space on Main Street in Batavia. Dorothy Wentland was the agency’s first executive director, and those who walked through the door in those early years were welcomed by both their peers and a small but caring staff.
In the intervening years, the MHA expanded both its space and its services to include transportation, outreach and community education, advocacy and services to individuals diagnosed as mentally ill and chemically addicted. And in 1995, under the leadership of its second executive director, Millie Tomidy-Pepper (herself a 20-year employee of the MHA), the MHA received funding to start a peer-to-peer Warm Line. The Warm Line is a model in New York State, and the MHA of Genesee and Orleans Counties remains one of only a few MHA’s statewide to provide this service.
Ever responsive to the growing and changing needs of its consumers and the community, in 2015 the MHA launched the Visions of Hope Recovery Center, a peer-directed program designed to help individuals with mental health challenges reach their full potential through support and encouragement. And, in the Fall of 2015, the Mental Health Association of Genesee County joined forces with Orleans County to become the Mental Health Association of Genesee and Orleans Counties. Office and program sites are now in both Batavia and Albion.
Go to www.mhago.org for information.