Kim Glackin is passionate about mental health.
And the Independence native and MCC-Blue River psychology instructor is trying to be part of the solution to fixing the problems the mental health community faces.
In October, Glackin was one of more than 600 mental health professionals from across the nation who lobbied lawmakers in Washington, D.C., for changes in policy as part of the National Council for Behavioral Health rally organized by National Council President Linda Rosenberg.
She also is collaborating with students and fellow instructors to bring the fifth annual All For The Children day to MCC-Blue River in March in an effort to help prevent and curb child abuse in Eastern Jackson County.
The trip to Washington – Glackin’s third there – took on added meaning because it happened just five days after the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.
Glackin was one of 40 delegates from Missouri who visited the Capitol to visit with Missouri senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt and the staffs of Congressmen Sam Graves and Emanuel Cleaver. They also heard presentations from pop singer Demi Lovato, who has suffered from bipolar disorder, and popular television physican “Dr. Oz” – Mehmet Oz – on the effects of mental health on physical health.
Because of the many recent shootings, Glackin said that the lawmakers were more willing to listen to her group’s lobbying on mental health policy. The first time she went, she said, which ironically happened the same day the Washington Navy Yard shooting took place, they were not as receptive.
“You think it would because the Navy shooter occurred because of an absence of mental health care, and you think people would make the connection of why and how it's needed and what have you, but it didn't seem to make much of an effect then,” said Glackin, who became involved in the NCBH group because she is on the board of directors for Comprehensive Mental Heath Services in Independence. “This last time was probably the most receptive they've ever been. ... They said this is the time for it, there's definitely a need for it. ... So people are definitely more aware. I don't know if it's because of all the mass shootings that are going on right now, but definitely some awareness has been brought out, which has been very helpful.”
Glackin said the power to effect change has come in numbers. She thinks the Missouri delegation was more effective because it has 40 members, as opposed to none from Kansas.
Glackin said that Sen. McCaskill had a prior meeting scheduled but came out of it to visit with the Missouri delegation because it had brought a large contingent. Glackin said Blunt was also very receptive to the group’s message.
“She was so just very down to earth, very gracious, very aware of the challenges that mental health funding is presented with – which is it doesn't make anyone any money, it's not a sexy cause, it's not going to fund roads, it often goes up in opposition to other things that have significant lobbying efforts,” Glackin, a William Chrisman High School and MCC-Blue River graduate, said of McCaskill. “So usually people, to some degree, violate their constituents to advocate for mental health funding, because they usually want something that is profitable for their area. So she was very aware of the challenges we are presented with.”
Glackin said she has learned – from her experience with CMHS, the trips to Washington and the All For The Children event – that mental health services are more important than ever. But the willingness to make changes is coming much too slowly.
“There's a huge need for mental health care. The problem is there's not a huge desire to address it,” she said. “Again, it's not going to make anybody any money. The problem is pervasive, it's long lasting, it's ongoing, and it's not going to be stopped by any one initiative. Obviously you need access to care and removal of the stigma. No one is going to seek out mental health care because if they do ... they rightly are fearful that there's a stigma attached to mental health care, and that shouldn't be so.
“ ... Many of us are affected by mental health challenges. There's no stigma attached to physical challenges. You wouldn't be afraid to seek out a doctor because you had a stomach ache. Why should you be afraid to see out a doctor because your challenges are between your ears as opposed to in, say, your arm?”
Before President John F. Kennedy was assasinated, he had pushed the Community Mental Health Act of 1963 through Congress. He was killed three weeks later and his successor, Lyndon Johnson, failed to follow through, appropriating the funds to shelter the homeless in his war on poverty instead of building community mental health facilities.
Glackin said that left a large void in community mental health services and policy for 50 years before an emergency Mental Health Act of 2014 was passed last year.
“So 50 years to try to right a wrong, and many people have suffered in the process,” she said. “Millions of lives that have been wasted, people who have been tortured and didn't have to be. Look at how full the prisons are, look how full the correctional facilities are, filled with people who have mental health problems, who are suffering and don't need to. We would never stand for that if it was a biological issue.”
She has seen a large need in Independence, especially in the area of child abuse and addiction services. She, in fact, has had several students at MCC who have been victims of abuse.
“We have a lot of students, a lot of them at Blue River, who are not only victims of child abuse, but are poised to repeat it because they are often financially destitute,” Glackin said. “They’re usually single parents, they’re alone, isolated from their family and community and have children. They’re just really poised to replicate and repeat the cycle.”
That’s why Glackin has enlisted her MCC students and fellow instructors Cynthia Heddlesten and Amy Slater in partnership with the students of nearby Little Blue Elementary into helping her All For The Children event, an idea she got from a similar event in California.
The fifth annual day for children is set for March 19 at MCC-Blue River’s Arts & Sciences Building. It will feature a 5K run/walk, an Easter egg hunt, free dental care provided by Truman Medical Center, Public Safety Institute self-defense classes for kids, child ID kits, entertainment provided by MCC drama students and Little Blue singers and other fun activities. MCC students also work on a project and reveal it then to help disadvantaged parents cope better with financial demands and stress. One project showed parents how to make cheap, nutritional meals for their children. They also sell Gigi’s Cupcakes donated from the Overland Park, Kan., company throughout the year to help pay for the event.
Glackin said All For The Children started out more as a child abuse theme but has changed into a day to simply let kids be kids.
“We came at this at first all about child abuse, and the folks at CAPA (Child Abuse Prevention Association) said, 'Don’t do that. You’ll isolate them, you’ll make people not want to be a part of it,'” Glackin said. “So we changed it, so now we’re doing a celebration of childhood.
“When you’re completely alone, you’re extremely stressed, you’re financially destitute, you’re away from your social support network and you have unrealistic expectations, it’s just a powder keg. People don’t want to hurt their kids. They don’t know what else to do,” she added. “So it’s our initiative to educate them that it can be small, little changes that will help. If you’re connecting with your community, it’s better for anyone involved. We don’t want to preach to anybody, we just want to help.”