Network of Care puts services at Stark residents’ fingertips

July 06, 2004
Canton Repository

The Stark County Community Mental Health Board, in partnership with the Stark County Family Council, has introduced an Internet-based community resource for information related to mental health, children and families.

The new site is designed to put people in touch with the right services at the right time. Two major areas of focus are resources for individuals, families and agencies involved with children up to age 18 and those seeking information about mental health and emotional wellness. Stark was selected as one of three county pilot programs that received start-up funds from the Ohio Department of Mental Health.

Jackque Bowen’s association with the Mental Health Board coincided with management of her bipolar condition. Her condition stabilized, the articulate 37-year-old began volunteering at the Mental Health Board-sponsored Foundations, a recovery organization that is peer-operated, and segued into an internship. She now is Foundations’ administrative assistant.

On the first floor of the McKinley Centre, Foundations has four computers on which mental-health clients and consumers may access the new Network of Care Web site. Bowen’s job is to assist consumers as they begin working with computers and also training the agency’s base of 28 volunteers in the new program.

“I am so proud of this,” she said. “It’s made for consumers, and nobody has to be to afraid of it. It’s easy access, a three-click minimum. If I want to reach Trillium, for example, I get on the site, hit ‘Support’ and Trillium is listed.”

Message boards offer ways for clients to discuss their problems and compare solutions.

A. Leslie Abel, executive director of the Mental Health Board, commented, “One of the most unique features of the Network of Care site is the ability for any user to create a personal folder, located on a separate secure server, as a place to keep important information about their health care.”

And the Web site puts power in the hands of those needing help, she said.

“Sometimes we have trouble with the gatekeepers at agencies when we call. But people pay attention to their e-mail. You can leave them a voice message and they’ll get their e-mail first,” she explained.

Just three weeks old, the Network of Care Web site has drawn 11 people to Bowen alone and she expects them to return regularly. Foundations is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Plans include an expansion of hours soon to include Saturday, noon to 4 p.m.

In the rare cases where all the computers are in use, Bowen has walked clients across the street to the Stark County Library where they can access the Web, also at no charge.

Helping others, Bowen, said, is important to her recovery. “You’ve got to give it away to keep it,’ she said.

The address for the new Web site is: http://stark.oh.networkofcare.org/mh. Foundations’ phone number is (330) 454-2888.