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Center for mental health is working in community

By Erin O'Connor

Staff Writer

WESTFIELD The recent passing of Carson Center for Human Services' founder, Marguerite O. Carson has not slowed the Center down in its quest for growth.

"I think of these people as angels because they do things that people cannot do for themselves," said Paul E. Fitzemeyer, director of development for the Center.

Two recent donations and a commendation to one of the Center's staff has put the non-profit in a position for growth.

The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts recently awarded the Westfield-based Center for Human Services a $5,000 grant from its Credit Data Services, Inc. fund intended to insure the near-term success of the agency's merger with Valley Human Services (VHS) of Ware, Fitzemeyer said.

"An initiative from that foundation is to put an end to poverty in this region," he said.

"The Community Foundation's grant will help us bring VHS the stability they seek to continue providing needed services in their catchment area," said Kathleen Damon, executive director for the Center.

"It will provide stabilization of the VHS which has been suffering from revenue erosion that is caused by the state underfunding what is done and insurance companies doing the same," said Fitzemeyer.

A grant of $1,000 from Wal-Mart Store at 141 Springfield Rd will be used as part of a pool of funds raised each year by the Center. The pool named "Project Access for Children" supports a sliding scale payment schedule for local under or uninsured children in need of mental health services, said Fitzemeyer.

"We rely tremendously on the people in the communities we serve to help provide the financial resources needed to carry out our community safety net mission," said Damon.

One of the Center's staff, Doctor Jeffrey Geller, was hailed as one of three "heroes" by the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) as this year's winners of its annual Torrey Advocacy Commendation. The award recognizes the courage and tenacity of those who selflessly advocate, despite criticism and opposition, for the right to treatment for those who are so severely disabled by mental illnesses that they do not recognize that they need treatment, Fitzemeyer said.

There are three Carson Centers in Westfield and nine programs in other parts of Western Massachusetts.

"We are a safety net for the community," Fitzemeyer said, "If someone falls through the cracks they bring them to us."

Marguerite O. Carson came to the Westfield area Child Guidance clinic from Springfield in September 1966, at the organization's infancy. She propelled the agency beyond it's immediate concerns to a future as a full service mental health clinic for people of all ages.