Women in Leadership and Mental Health Care Progress in Manhattan, 6/21/2018

By Catherine Hedge

For those who weren’t able to join us, we would like to share the perspectives of our local leaders from our Lunch with League, 6/21/2018. I apologize for the delayed post, but I know you will find their comments valuable.

We are very appreciative of the civic commitment of Representative Sydney Carlin, Kansas House of Representatives, Mayor Linda Morse of the Manhattan City Commission, and former mayor and Manhattan City Commissioner, Usha Reddi.

Women in Leadership and Mental Health Care progress in Manhattan

Rep. Sydney Carlin:

There are rewards and challenges.  The rewards outweigh everything.  They are often small, like a thank you from people I have helped.  Though I have received an award from a state social work organization, there is little state-wide or community-wide recognition.  Still, it is not rewards I seek.

On Wednesday morning, I worked on six projects, some finished, some on-going.  Satisfaction comes knowing what I do makes a difference in the lives of other people.  Since I have been in office for I while, I have connections and people listen.

Earlier, I had to listen to old tapes to learn about working together. One described Power…reverent power.  People have elected you and that is what gives you authority.  People come to me more when I am campaigning, so I still campaign, even if unopposed.

So, the rewards are genuine.

There are challenges.  Every day is something different.  Being in session is like being in college…an hour and a half here, then off to somewhere else.  You can never be too prepared, so you learn to listen.  We don’t know everything, so we spend a lot of time learning.

To sustain, Karen McCulloh and I started a local group, Women for Kansas.  We did get several women in power and supported their candidacy. Our goal was to get women in the running. We let them know there are women who will support them as candidates, but especially once they are in office.  That is needed as sometimes it gets lonely.

It is important to get people involved, such as on local boards.  Then, they rise up as leaders in the community.  They learn how government works.

I was part of a family growing up…a farm family.  At 8, I drove a tractor.  It was important I had brothers and never thought I wasn’t a guy. That helped me deal with men.

I learned, “Things might get done faster by men, but not better”

For example: The Women’s Caucus in the House had great success, so much that some representatives were told not to do that again.  At first, it was hard to get the information we needed, but once we did, we invited in men, especially the freshmen representatives, to learn with us.

It is important to know that leadership works both ways.

Mayor Linda Morse:

(She pointed out LWVMRC should review our position on growth as there are many upcoming changes. One thing to realize is many communities around us have a County Government manager)

Leaders come from many directions. I needed to be involved in political activity.  League was a path to learn.

There are fewer women candidates in County offices, though it is good to have 3 women who ran and won positions on the USD 383 school board (Supported by Women for Kansas local group)

In the past, positions have been male-dominated.  For 12 years befor Karen McCulloh, the planning board was all men.  Now with Sue Maes and Ellen Johannson, they will engage and ask questions.

(Usha Reddi commented on the need for asking questions.

I needed to be backed into a corner to run for office. (Sydney Carlin adds:  You had support) It is important to have people who reassure you and pat you on the back.

The challenge is getting women to run this time.  Usha Reddi points out:  18 candidates for governor and only 1 a woman.

There is a culture change happening and more of a challenge.

Leadership-wise, it takes doing your homework and sometimes moral support.  It is wonderful when 3 women were on the City Commission.

Basic philosophy:  Government is different when women are involved. They have a different way of approaching others.

(We had an interesting discussion on whether or not a mill levy point should be designated for social services.  On-going discussion.)

Even with Manhattan changing, (2,000 lost in last 2 years from KSU and 3,300 deployed from Ft. Riley, we still have a robust economy. Working our way through 1 issue at a time. Building projects, tax lid budget, social services, etc.

Goal is to make Manhattan the best community we can be.

Leadership is rewarding/ Glad people feel free to talk to me and what to know what is happening.  The downside is energy…just trying to keep up!

Usha Reddi

My focus is different, on Mental Health, but I would add that because of people like Sydney and Linda, I don’t feel alone.  I also have friendship.

Thanks to Linda for being at so many meetings to get first-hand information. (Linda adds, Usha does the same.) Because of the relationship, I get to share information.  Even if we don’t always agree.  I have learned to listen more than talk.  I’ve found that others have their own things they are facing in their lives. I’ve learned not to pit them against each other, which happens too often.  After all, it is all taxpayer money.  We need to learn how to manage the small treasure chest we have.

Mental Health:

There have been positive changes with Pawnee Mental Health and County organizations.  Karen McCulloh brought together many into a task force to look to see what resources we had and to find solutions.

This is important because mental illness does not discriminate.

Results: We have a great relationship between Pawnee Mental Health and the police.

We have hired two co-responders.  3 years ago, the funding was from a combination of police department and City Commission, but now part of RCPD budget

The co-responders have been here long enough the Riley County Law Board has data:

For example: In one studied period, of 231 individuals, with co-responder help in situations that would have formerly led to arrest or emergency room visits:

55% didn’t know they had a mental health problem or know where to seek services.

20% were suffering from substance abuse

25% did not have to go to the emergency room.

77% were referred for follow-up help.

They do get follow-up calls from the co-responders which decreases repeat incidences.

The results are keeping people out of jail.

One issue is a lack of beds at Via Christi. That is being reconsidered and other approaches are being taken. (See below)

Another improvement is that the Manhattan City Commission has a mental health goal.  In the past, that was non-existent.

The Commission has been working with Pawnee Mental Health for 2-3 years because of the recognized need for a stabilization center. That is a place where individuals could be held fore 23-72 hours instead of going to jail or the emergency room.  This way, they don’t get a jail record or hospital bill.

At first, the goal of getting a house to remodel and staffing was overwhelming with a 1.5 million dollar budget.  Robin Cole, executive director of Pawnee County Health submitted grants and was awarded $725, 000. This is important because now other counties can be contacted for support.  So the wheels are moving. The cost to renovate is high, special furniture is needed, so in-kind donations would be helpful.

The County Commission has agreed to front-load the money, as grants are paid in increments.

This is giving us the opportunity to have great conversations with local counties. Legislators will also be tapped for funding. A caution is that often state monies are at the start, then dry up, leaving the local government to pick up the tab.

This can only be done because of the work of all the parties.

(On the Lawboard, there is no such thing as a stupid question.  We need to search for the next law board leader. )




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