BUW convenes navigators to hear from experts in the mental health field

On January 24, Berkshire United Way convened the county’s network of community navigators to hear from experts in the mental health field. The panel included Chris Haley, site director, and Jeff Boyd, both from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH); Melissa Helm, executive director of NAMI Berkshire County; and Maggie Bouvier, community resource coordinator for The Brien Center (and member of Berkshire United Way’s Navigation Advisory Committee). 

“Berkshire United Way believes deeply in the critical role navigators play in helping our community thrive. We are proud to host this space to assist them in improving connections, knowledge, and referrals to ultimately improve outcomes for all,” said Katherine von Haefen, Director of Community Impact.

Chris said that while all applications and clinical diagnosis go through the Northampton office, the DMH office in Pittsfield is making sure Berkshire residents are getting the help they need. She said currently about 55 individuals across the county are accessing services. Jeff added that the application process has become easier – it’s only two pages and less complicated. Learn more about DMH services. 

Melissa is a staff of one but is supported by a volunteer team of family, friends, and individuals whose lives have been affected by mental illness. Like most local chapters, the Berkshire chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness benefits from peer led groups, the national and state network, and even some virtual services – and there is no insurance or documentation requirement. She’s excited to be expanding mental health retreats into schools and to work with The Brien Center on a directory for mental health resources. Right now, all NAMI programming is for adults, but there has been a call for support for young adults. As Melissa said, NAMI exists to “elevate the wisdom of lived experience.” Learn more about NAMI Berkshire County.  

In 2023, The Brien Center saw over 1,500 individuals and as of January 1, is taking most commercial insurance, noted Maggie. The center, she said, is like urgent care – anyone can call the 800 number and the team will determine if it’s a crisis or intake situation. The Brien Center is working to break the cycle of clients holding on to therapists for fear of access later on. The Brien Center is also working with systems within schools and housing. Learn more about The Brien Center. 

The next navigation convening on March 28 will focus on immigration services.