Personal experience provides perspective for NCMH Board member
N3- Newaygo County Mental Health has been providing services to the community for the past half century. As part of their celebration we are running a series of articles highlighting the good work that has been done as well as the good work currently being done. Today, NCMH Board member Todd Koopmans offers some insight.
I have been involved with Newaygo County Mental Health a very long time - since I was a kid - maybe 8 or 9 years old. Back then, NCMH was smaller – there were no different departments – children and adults were served by the same people. There were Dictaphones, no cell phones and everything was typed into my records. I remember services in the house that was across the street from the library.
I spent my teen years in an institution and then foster care. I moved into an adult foster care home when I was 18. A few years later I was able to move into my own apartment. Then I bought a trailer, and got married. I joined the Board of the ARC of Newaygo County, and began to get involved with helping others being served by the CMH system. I joined the Disability Council for the State, and received the Partners in Excellence Award from the Community Mental Health Association.
Although I am no longer married, I am still friends with her. Her family accepted me as one of their own, and continue to support me and help me. I am treated as one of their own.
I am one of the founding members of the Empowerment Network, and served as Vice Chair on their board. We advocated with the CMH for more money and a better space. I am very proud of the contributions Empowerment makes to our community.
I was appointed to the CMH Board in 2007, and have served on the State Children’s Advisory Committee as well as the Self Advocates of Michigan committee since then. I am also on the Executive Board for the CMHA.
As a member of the CMH Board, I feel valued. The Board members share ideas, suggestions, and I appreciate being listened to. They listen to what I have to say, and we all have a lot to share. I learn a lot about new programs, and I believe we make a positive difference for all of the clients that we serve. At first, I was afraid to talk, but I am now comfortable talking about my experiences and beliefs. I feel that they really respect my opinions and I feel like I am a valuable member of the Board.
I also assist with other committees to help the voices of clients to be heard. I am a member of both the local and regional consumer advisory committees.
I am most proud that I have found a home, a place that I belong where I can use my experiences to help others. I am not angry about my past, and I look forward to the future. I have learned to not throw rocks at my problems, and if you want to make a change, do it from the inside out.
It is my hope that Community Mental Health and its Board will continue to serve this community for a long time. I believe we are on the right course, and I hope to help the Board continue to meet the needs of the people.
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