What would life in the counties of Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Lawrence, Elliott, Rowan, Menifee, Montgomery, Bath and Morgan be like today without Pathways?
Variations of that question were asked repeatedly by speakers at Tuesday’s community outreach luncheon at Pathways offices in the Skytower for supporters of the mental health center that stretches from Ashland to Mount Sterling, has more than 600 employees and annually services just under 15,000 unduplicated clients.
“What would this community be like without Pathways? Most people can’t answer that question because they don’t know everything that Pathways does,” said Kim McClanahan, chief executive officer of the regional mental health program. “We remain largely unknown to many in this region.”
The free outreach luncheons Pathways has been hosting monthly for about three years are intended to increase community awareness of Pathways and its many programs. Officials also hope to recruit volunteers.
Those attending the luncheon were given a “wish list” prepared by Pathways employees as ways individuals and groups could help the mental health program. Most of the items on the wish list were specific capital needs such as three Hoyer Lifts, two microwaves, two refrigerators, a stove, a dishwasher, exercise equipment, indoor gardening supplies, art supplies, journals or notebooks and subscriptions to newspapers and magazines.
However, those attending the luncheon also were asked to consider becoming a Pathways Ambassador by attending at least one community outreach luncheon a year, hosting or bringing 10 to 15 guests to a community outreach luncheon, attending Pathways-sponsored feel-good cultivation events as desired and recruiting new ambassadors.
Donated items help reduce the cost of operating Pathways programs at a time when money is tight, and like all nonprofit organizations, Pathways always needs more volunteers, McClanahan said.
Becky Walker, an employee of the Carter County School District and a Pathways board member, said she learned firsthand the value of Pathways soon after joining the district when a student shot and killed a teacher and janitor at East Carter High School and held 22 of his classmates hostage before surrendering to police.
When asked what the school should do in the aftermath of the shootings, Walker said, “... we needed to call Pathways to offer counseling to the students who had been held hostage. Within minutes I think the entire staff at the Pathways center in Grayson was at the school and talking with students.”
“I don’t know what we would have done without them,” she said. “That’s the day I really learned to appreciate Pathways.”
Ronne Nunley, director of organizational development at Pathways and a 21-year employee of the agency, said she learned what the region would be like without Pathways while visiting a relative in Florida. A man there was refusing the leave the bridge where his mother had died and local leaders did not know how to handle the situation because there was no program like Pathways in that community.
A similar situation in northeastern Kentucky resulted in a man being transferred to a facility where he was given shelter, food and warm clothing. He is making great progress because of Pathways, Nunley said.
Pathways employee Jim Cunningham told those at the meeting about Jesse (not his real name) who two years ago was found living in an unheated shed where his family had locked him and burned his clothing. Pathways helped rescue the mentally challenged young man from his horrible living conditions, and he is making strides and becoming more independent.
Paul Ferguson told of identifying a girl at a local high school who was found to be so dependent on drugs and alcohol she needed to be placed in a residential treatment center run by Pathways. She entered the center kicking, screaming and cursing, Ferguson said, and the chances of treatment were slim.
However, the girl called Ferguson a month later to thank Pathways “for saving my life.”
McClanahan said the problems Kentucky continues to have with Medicare and Medicaid are affecting Pathways and making it more difficult for the agency to fund its programs.
“I am not going to say much about Medicare and Medicaid at this meeting because that is not why we are here today,” McClanahan said. “However, it is impacting us greatly. “
JOHN CANNON can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2649.