The Ottumwa Courier

Opinion

April 18, 2012

Promise Center's future at stake

Guest Editorial

OTTUMWA — We are writing in response to Rep. Gaskill’s statement in the April 9 Ottumwa Courier that the current mental health bill, in its current form, would end funding for the Promise Center, causing it to close in 2013. Promise Center, which is located at 230 E. Main St., is a program of the Southern Iowa Mental Health Center and is a drop-in center for adults with mental illness. We are, and represent, members of the Promise Center and would like the community to know the things we know.

First of all, the Promise Center was created in 2001 in response to needs expressed by adults with mental illness, their friends, family members and providers for a safe, nurturing place for those with mental illness to go for support, socialization, life skills education and a connection to the community. Since that time, 474 individuals have become members. In 2011, 165 members came to Promise Center for a total of 6,135 times!

Promise Center is not just a place to “hang out.” It helps people stay out of the hospital and reduces visits to the emergency room. Many individuals with mental illness have limited or no support system, and the center provides this support and is “family” to many of us. It alleviates depression and isolation. It teaches us about the community and makes us feel we are a part of the community. Many of us do volunteer work (RSVP, Outreach Center, Make Ottumwa Shine), are working part time or are looking for jobs. We have learned how to communicate better and have better social skills. We have discovered there are people who care and that we are not alone. It helps us cope with the symptoms of our illnesses. It keeps people off the streets and out of jail. It has made us more independent and willing to break out of our comfort zones and shells. We are more focused and thinking about goals. Many of us have learned to use the city bus system after joining. We can go to the Promise Center in a crisis and leave feeling better. It helps us in our recovery from the devastating impact of living with a mental illness and its accompanying stigma. It gives us hope.

We have an open door policy and encourage anyone to visit and see how the center benefits its members. We are proud of our center and our accomplishments. We are not a charity program. We have not had an increase in our operational budget since opening almost 11 years ago. Members clean and maintain the building, wait on customers in our store, answer the phone, as well as many other tasks. Other service providers such as Hillcrest Family Services, First Resources and Optimae are able to accompany their clients to the Promise Center to help work on their goals.

The thought of losing the Promise Center creates many emotions for us: depression, anxiety, anger, thoughts of loneliness, confusion about the future and the fear of not seeing our friends and peers.

We encourage our legislators to find a way to continue funding for the Promise Center. We feel it is a tax savings to Wapello County taxpayers. We wish they would have considered the consequences of their proposed legislation before putting it into motion. Consider the impact if it was your son or daughter who might lose this vital support.

Amy Butts, Cassie Archer, Carol Archer and Dan Humble are members of the Promise Center.

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