DMH teams with the Ben Gordon Center to offer free local Community Trainings

In the wake of the Northern Illinois University (NIU) tragedy last year, DMH and DeKalb's Ben Gordon Center cosponsored a series of town hall meetings and community "webinars" for local residents, providers, healthcare professionals, educators and students to better comprehend and cope with the sustained aftereffects of a mass tragedy. The Division secured funding for this and other NIU-related services from the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA).

"As much as we'd all like to forget what occurred on the NIU campus, an unexpectedly violent act typically impacts our wellbeing long past the day it happens," stated Division of Mental Health Director Lorrie Jones. "For that reason we're continuing to proactively support the efforts of both Ben Gordon through the town hall meetings and the University to respond to the increased need for counseling services."

"The Ben Gordon Center is proud to work with the Illinois Division of Mental Health and Dr. Harvey Barker, head of Virginia's New River Valley Community Services Center, to present these forums over the next several months", said Michael Flora, President and CEO of the Ben Gordon Center.

"These workshops and town hall meetings are open to everyone in our community Our community continues to witness increased demand for mental health services. In the past year, we have witnessed over a 98 percent increase in children's psychiatric hospitalizations and increased access of our emergency services. We want to make sure that there are no wrong doors for care. Research shows that children, teens, adults and families all react differently and may need care at different times. These seminars and the need for continued care are needed as we approach our first anniversary of the tragedy in 2009 and beyond as our communities heal".

A kick off "webinar" was held on August 22, 2008 followed by three consecutive town hall trainings on August 25th, 26th and 27th. The trainings were conducted by New River Valley Center Executive Director Barker, Ben Gordon CEO Flora, and Ben Gordon's Director of Prevention and former psychology professor, Kris Povlsen, who also serves as DeKalb's mayor.

Barker, the executive director of New River Valley Community Services, a Blacksburg VA-based mental health center, described the Virginia Tech shooting as a "pure mental health disaster." Besides the university's students and their relatives, faculty, staff, alumni, local residents and everyone else affiliated with the school or connected to the surrounding area was impacted. "No one is untouched when something like this happens," Barker said. He went on to observe that research indicates that communities failing to respond effectively to such crises may experience an increase in suicides, depression, school drop-out rates and family dysfunction.

Ben Gordon Center, Inc. is an experienced provider of behavioral health services including mental health, chemical dependency and substance abuse disorders with offices in DeKalb, Genoa and Sandwich.