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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the largest grassroots organization in the nation that works to support those who have been impacted by mental illness. The Butler County NAMI chapter promotes metal health awareness throughout the community, and provides support to individuals and their families through peer groups, a crisis hotline, and educational classes. The services offered by NAMI nationwide and in Butler County are vital to mental illness research, and have a significant impact on the development of improved legislation and programming.

Each year, NAMI Butler County recognizes organizations and individuals throughout the community that have made an impact in the mental health field. Community First Solutions is proud to announce that Andre Whaley, LSW, Scott Miller, RN, and Dr. Kenneth Tepe are receiving the 2016 Trailblazer Award on April 21st for their work with Community Behavioral Health’s Connections Program

Oftentimes when individuals have been medicated during a hospital stay or incarceration, they find themselves without that medication after their release. Connections is a 90-day transitional support program that bridges that gap until they can be connected with a primary care physician.

For the past year, Andre Whaley has served as the Connections Coordinator; working as a case manager to introduce individuals into the program and ensure that they are moving through it successfully. Dr. Tepe, Chief Clinical Officer, credits Whaley with bringing a true structure to the program.

“He goes into the community and engages people who have been in a hospital, in jail, on the street- somewhere that they were on a medication and can no longer get it. He brings them to the program so we can connect them to ongoing care.”

Scott Miller screens the client after their initial meeting with Whaley. He determines the client’s current medical state, and what services would best meet their needs. He continues working with the client throughout their transition with medication monitoring and education; vital services to ensure the successful program competition.

Dr. Tepe plays many roles in the organization.  Connections was formed from a need to lower recidivism rates, and with a goal of keeping people that could be treated with other methods out of state hospitals; Tepe was there from the beginning. He provides therapy and prescribes medications once a client has worked with Miller. He is then able to connect them with a primary care physician, unless the client continues through another program in CBH. Tepe’s personal involvement in the program has made it what it is today.

“This is what makes me feel like a doctor. We are helping remarkably sick people who could possibly die without this program, and we see them transform right in front of us. This lets me know that what I’m doing is useful.”

When asked about the future of Connections, the team agreed that growth is their goal. Miller stated, “I would like to see it go beyond Butler County; this is a service needed in other places, too.” Tepe would like to see more involvement and partnership with the jail system, to ensure that prisoners are receiving the medication they need. Whaley agreed, saying “I want to engage with people before they are sentenced in the justice system. I would like to see more of those situations result in getting help through this program.”

Laura Sheehan, Vice President of Behavioral Health Services, is proud of the team’s accomplishments. “We have operated the program for years with a variety of wonderful staff, but Andre has taken the program out into the community, and presented it in a positive light with his upbeat demeanor. Scott and Dr. Tepe work well together to be able to complete the follow-through for each client.” She values the program, saying,

“The importance of Connections is so far reaching in the community. It makes a long-term impact for people because it bridges the gap until they get to a primary provider.”

Whaley, Miller, and Tepe are grateful for this recognition from NAMI and hope that it will increase awareness of the program throughout the community.

“This program helps people in ripples. You never know who you will help that will spread that support to someone else, or send them here” said Dr. Tepe.

April 20th, 2016

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