In the fall of 2013 and early 2014, Mayor Jerry Taylor, with the support of former Mayor Woodrow Hay, began to understand the need to get the greater Boynton Beach community talking about mental health to break down misconceptions and promote recovery and a healthy community. Mayor Taylor recognized the unique role public officials have in shaping community responses that will promote recovery, prevent behavioral health disorders, reduce the impact of behavioral health problems when they do occur and ensure that needed treatments and services are available. It became clear that the community needed to become engaged in finding innovative community-based solutions to mental health needs, with a focus on helping young people.
There isn’t a family that hasn’t been touched by mental illness. In any given year one in 4 people will suffer an anxiety disorder. Nearly 7 percent will experience a major depressive disorder. One in 12 will develop a substance-abuse disorder. Early intervention, community-based therapy, access to medication and strong social supports help people recover.
In April 2014, the City Commission supported Mayor Taylor’s leadership in wanting to create a Mental Health Committee to develop a strategy to address these issues.
Many candidates expressed an interest in serving on this committee. After extensive interviewing by former Mayor Woodrow Hay and mental health advocate, Gerda Klein, the new Boynton Beach Mental Health Committee (BBMHC), representing the diversity of the greater Boynton Beach community, was announced at the July 1st City Commission meeting.
Former Mayor Woodrow Hay, a widely respected leader who has dedicated 40 years of his life to public service in Boynton Beach, became the committee chair. “I am proud to serve as the first chairman of this important committee,” said Hay. “It is time we work together as one community to improve the quality of life for everyone by breaking the stigma around mental illness that prevents people from getting the support and treatment they need.”
The co-founder and chair of the Boynton Beach Mental Health Initiative (BBMHI 2009), Gerda Klein serves as a liaison to the BBMHI and the Palm Beach County Action Alliance for Mental Health, a coalition working to address mental health issues countywide.
The Committee also includes:
- Sherry Johnson, Executive Director of the Community Caring Center of Greater Boynton Beach, Inc. d/b/a Secret Garden Cafe, a Culinary Incubator Program
- Ron Washam, a 50-year city resident and community activist;
- Charlee Brown, RN, a life coach specializing in drug addiction and mental illness
- Margaret Newton, retired middle school teacher and multicultural education administrator with the Palm Beach County School District
- Mary McClory, RN, MSHL, LHRM, CPHQ, Vice President of Quality and Organizational Effectiveness at Bethesda Health, Inc
- Micheline Avril, Assistant Charge Nurse at Bethesda Hospital
Committee alternates: Cynthia Shulman, RN, board certified psychiatric nurse; and Alisha Agnew Singh, corporate trainer working on a Master’s degree at Lynn University to become a licensed mental health counselor.
Advisor: Seth Bernstein, Psy.D. , Director of Community Engagement and Psychologist, Boys Town South Florida