"Getting the 'community' into Mental Health."-Hank Boks who was hired by NCMH the year they opened their doors.
NCMH – 50th Anniversary celebration
N3- Newaygo County Mental Health has been providing services to the community for the past half century. As part of Mental Health Month we are running a series of articles highlighting the good work that has been done as well as the good work currently being done. This is the second and features a conversation with former Exec. Director Hank Boks who was part of NCMH’s original crew.
1972 – seems like so long ago. If you ask Hank Boks, former Executive Director of Newaygo County Mental Health, it seems like yesterday.
“I was the first clinical hire of the agency – Glen Erard, the first Director of the Agency, hired me to move Newaygo County residents out of state institutions and back into Newaygo County. We had a lot of people both in Traverse City State Hospital and the Muskegon Regional Center that didn’t need to be there. It was a standard practice for babies born with disabilities for the parents to be told by their family doctor that the child needed to go to an institution. People didn’t know any different.
“We worked hard to get all of these people home. Newaygo County was the first County in the State to get all of its residents out of State Institutions, and we continue to not use State Hospitals to house individuals with developmental disabilities or mental illness today.
“We were able to develop other options in the community that were better for the individuals, and allowed their families to develop relationships and visit them” says Boks. “We developed foster care homes in the community, and programs at Mental Health to serve and meet their needs here. They lived much fuller lives, and many were able to go on to living in their own homes and apartments.”
Initially Community Mental Health offices were located in an old house on the other side of Wilcox. The current mental health building was constructed in 1979, with a major addition being added in 2009.
“We focused on getting the ‘community’ into mental health. Over the years, we developed all of the array of services that we could offer. We provided case management, therapy, home-based services for children, and housing for adults with disabilities. We built three homes in the 1980’s to move persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities out of the institutions and into the community.
"All three of these homes are still operating, and 3 more have been added since then. These homes provide a community based home for the people that live there. In one of the homes, 3 of the people that moved there in the late 1980’s still live there today, more than 30 years later.”
Hank Boks would go on to become a clinical supervisor, and eventually Executive Director. He served the Agency for almost 28 years. “I am proud of Newaygo County Mental Health and the services they provide to the community. There have been many changes and new programs over the last 50 years that have changed lives for the better in this community. I know they will continue to serve persons in need for another 50 years.”
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