NASW Member Services (800) 742-4089

2019 NASW Arkansas Annual Awards Luncheon

March 29, 2019  12:00- 2:00PM

Little Rock Marriott 3 State Plaza

Free with Conference Pre-Registration or $30 per Ticket

Join us in honoring leaders in the profession and community who fully embody social work values

Honorees

Bonnie Limbird, LCSW

Lifetime Achievement

Eleanor Fondren

MSW Student of the Year

Mandy Davis, LCSW

Chloe Baldwin

BSW Student of the Year

Ruth Coker Burks

Citizen of the Year

Honorable Wendell Griffen

Elected Official of the Year

Judicial Equality for Mental Illness (JEMI)

Agency of the Year

About the Honorees

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

BONNIE LIMBIRD, LCSW

Bonnie Limbird earned her BA from Southern Arkansas University and her MSW from the UA Little Rock. Bonnie was the first president and a past president of the Arkansas Association for Infant Mental Health. She has worked with children and families for 35 years in a variety of settings including diagnostic, therapeutic, and administrative. As a founding member of AAIMH, she believes in the power of collaborative relationships. She is the former Program Manager for Social Work at KIDS FIRST, UAMS, a pediatric day health care program for children with special health care needs. Bonnie is a past president of NASW Arkansas and former regional representative to NASW national. She serves on the Community Advisory Board of the Graduate School of Social Work at UALR

Bonnie has spent her life serving the children and families of Arkansas in a variety of capacities. For most of her career, Bonnie worked at UAMS Kid’s First early childhood program as the manager for Social Work for over 15 years. She has served on dozens of task forces, boards, and commissions, lending her expertise, patience, and warmth to each  without thought of recompense. She is a tireless supporter of social work education, helping train hundreds of Arkansas’s social workers and organize thousands of hours of continuing education. She served as a field supervisor for master’s students in Social Work at UALR. She is past President and founding Board member of the Arkansas Association for Infant Mental Health. Recently retired, she continues to serve on boards of the AAIMH and UALR College of Education and Health Professions as well as advocate for early childhood and social work.

One colleague remarked, “I met Bonnie Limbird when I started my first job as a licensed counselor at UAMS KIDS FIRST. Though Bonnie was not my immediate supervisor, she took me under her wing, teaching, guiding, and encouraging me day after day. She introduced me to infant mental health and supported me through the development of several projects. Bonnie is the reason for much of my growth and success during those years and I cherish our time together. She’s a skilled social worker and a dear friend.”

“Bonnie is my yoga student and friend. She brings so much light to our class and my life. She is considerate and thoughtful of others, and doesn’t shy away from dishing some real talk when needed.”

Dr. Lilly Wichinsky stated, “Bonnie is one of the most dedicated social workers I have had the pleasure to work with. Our social work students often remarked to me how much they learned from her. She is amazingly kind, generous, and humble.”

And finally, Dr. Catherine Crisp also remarked that Bonnie “is one of the sweetest, most kind people on the planet. I’m excited about the prospect of honoring her with the Lifetime Achievement Award.”

 

SOCIAL WORKER OF THE YEAR

MANDY DAVIS, LCSW

Mandy Davis received both her BSW (2012) and MSW (2015) from UA Little Rock. I had the pleasure of getting to know Mandy as a student. Her passion and drive were evident from the moment she entered the classroom. Her focus was often on social justice issues in her own community and state. As a student Mandy received the BSW student of the year award from NASW-AR and served on the NASW-AR board.

After graduation, Mandy focused on aligning her personal and professional values and matching those to an organization that upholds those same values. She found a home at Jericho Way/Depaul USA as a social worker at the Jericho Way Day Resource Center, serving those in Little Rock who are experiencing homelessness. She worked under the leadership of Sister Elizabeth Greim for over a year before becoming Jericho Way’s director. Jericho Way is the newest project of Depaul USA, a national non-profit that serves those experiencing homelessness, and is Little Rock’s only day resource center for those experiencing homelessness

The Little Rock day center provides an important service to Little Rock by allowing the homeless long-term stays, which makes it possible for Jericho’s social workers to keep in touch. As Mandy said in a recent interview “I need stabilized people in order for social workers to be as effective as they can be […].” In addition to case management, Jericho Way provides access to computers, internet, local phone service, showers, restrooms, laundry service, housing referrals, and job counseling and training. They serve breakfast and lunch and provide transportation to and from the day center.

Under Mandy’s direction, Jericho Way have helped house 57 people in 2018 in both private and public housing. Mandy and her staff were able to help the individuals eliminate housing barriers through case management services. Of the 57 only 8 are no longer housed, with 86% still housed to date.

Furthermore, Mandy and Jericho Way are also taking part in Depaul USA’s “13 Houses” campaign – an initiative that draws inspiration from the works of St. Vincent de Paul – who dedicated his life to serving the poor and at one point bought 13 homes to house the needy and orphaned. As part of this mission they are working to ensure that in every country where Vincentians are present (151) they will build 13 homes. After this project ends, they will have housed approximately 10,000 people.

Recently, Jericho Way purchased a home in Little Rock for this project that is both the first in the US and across the world. The home will be used to house people either transitioning out of homelessness or helping those who are on the verge of becoming homeless.

In addition to her work at Jericho Way, Mandy has been a field instructor to several UALR interns, even assisting Clinton School students with their capstone projects. She was also awarded the “Pay it Forward Award” by KARK 4 for her work supporting Jericho Way staff while showing hospitality to her homeless neighbors. She has also received the “20 Over 20” award in 2017 from the Little Rock Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, celebrating her accomplishments as a nonprofit professional over the age of 20, and establishing her as one of the sector’s leaders.

In sum, I believe Mandy epitomizes the values and ethics of the Social Work profession. Her passion, drive and advocacy on behalf of our unsheltered neighbors is not only inspiring, but make a real difference in the lives of so many people. As such, I nominate Mandy with enthusiasm for the NASW AR Social Worker of the Year.

MSW SOCIAL WORK STUDENT OF THE YEAR

ELEANOR MAE FONDREN (HOLDEN)

Eleanor Fondren was born May 24, 1969, in Chicago, Illinois. She is the youngest of eight children birth by Nannie M. Holden (Sallis) and John W. Holden. Eleanor is a first-generation college graduate and the youngest of eight children. She has received the honor of becoming the first sibling in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree.

Childhood and Adolescences were not easy for Eleanor, she was required to grow up very fast. After her parents divorced, she would be soon kicked out of one of Chicago’s top high schools indefinitely for her continued gang affiliation and unruly conduct. The perils of growing up in the inner city of Chicago with minimal life skills and little education her path would lead to drug addiction, gang affiliation, and senseless homicides of established relationships, loss of rewarding opportunities, unstable employment, and homelessness. After, many years of instability, she began to realize that the lifestyle choices and bad decisions would only lead to two options: death or prison.

 

Today Eleanor is on the path of recovery currently gaining her Master of Social Work degree, and Certification in Addiction Studies. Her expected graduation date is May 2020. Educational achievements include:

  • Certification: Life Coaching School of Arkansas: November 2018
  • Bachelor of Social Work degree: May 2018 (Arkansas State University)
  • Associate of Applied Science Degree: May 2017 (Arkansas State University)
  • Associate of Art Degree: December 2014 (East Arkansas Community College)
  • Technical Certificate in Health Studies: May 2014 (East Arkansas Community College)
  • Certificate: General Studies: May 2014 (East Arkansas Community College)
  • General Educational Diploma: December 1991 (Olive Harvey College, Chicago Illinois)

 

Many of Eleanor’s accomplishments include:

  • National Engaged Leader Award 2017
  • Strong Turner 3.0 Society – Awarded to African-American Students achieving a GPA of 3.0 or higher 2016-2018
  • Student Support Service Achievement Award (Undergrad) 2016-2018
  • Diverse Women Achievement Award 2013
  • Sigma Alpha Phi Honor Society April 2017- Present
  • Student Association of Black Social Workers August 2017 – Present
  • Phi Alpha Honor Society August 2017 – Present
  • Student Social Work Organization August 2017 – Present

 

Eleanor is currently an advocate, volunteer, and community organizer. Community service includes:

  • CASA: Court Appointed Foster Care Advocate (Saint Francis County and Surround Areas)
  • Children with Voices: Committee Member (Forrest City, Arkansas)
  • Two Daughters Foundation: Volunteer (Memphis, Tennessee)
  • CASSP Coordinating Council: Advisory member (Region 4 of N.E Arkansas)

 

Eleanor is currently the founder/owner of Beyond Temptation L.L.C. a grassroots organization designed to build self-esteem, assertiveness, and motivation working with people that suffer from various social disparities. Their goal is to provide clients with effective tools to avoid obstacles that may limit their ability to reach their set goals. Beyond Temptation offers workshops, seminars, and conferences to bring awareness to mental health, addiction, bullying, gang violence, and domestic violence. Eleanor has spoken at the following events to bring awareness to people about the perils of drugs and gang affiliation:

  • June 2015: Showcase Your Pretty: empowerment workshop for today’s women
  • May 2018: Wynne, Arkansas: Boys and Girls Club
  • August 2018: East Central Arkansas Community Correctional Center
  • November 2018: Arkansas State University (Undergrad Substance Abuse Class)

 

Eleanor’s’ goal as a certified life coach is to empower others using her own life experiences as a testimony to help others. She plans to motivate, encourage, and empower others with workshops, motivational speaking, and her up and coming novel Beyond Temptation. Today Eleanor is a Wife, Student, and Life Coach that enjoys cooking, traveling, reading, writing, gardening, theater, volunteer work, and spending quality time with family and friends. In leisure time, she enjoys spending time with God strengthening her spirituality. God is whom she gives all the credit for the many accomplishments, without faith this journey would not have been possible. In strengthening spirituality, she gives unconditionally in hopes of helping others in homage to God in perspective that her service is not in vain. Therefore, in service finding happiness.

    BSW SOCIAL WORK STUDENT OF THE YEAR

    CHLOE BALDWIN

    Chloe Baldwin has been part of the UA undergraduate program since Spring 2018 when she was admitted to the BSW professional core. Chloe was originally a criminal justice major, but upon discovering the profession of social work, she knew she had to make the change. She is keenly aware of her privilege in the world and feels strongly that she can use her privilege and her skills as a future social worker to works toward equality and equity for all individuals. She is a double major pursuing social work and pre-law, with a minor in political science. After completing her BSW, she plans to pursue her MSW and law degrees simultaneously. She has a strong interest in working in juvenile justice. Chloe maintains a cumulative GPA of 3.5 and maintains a 3.86 in her social work courses.

    During her time as a student, she has been heavily involved with the Dream B.I.G. (Believing in Girls) program, a mentoring program that connects middle school and successful college students. She has served both as a mentor and has a coordinator of curriculum. Through her work with Dream B.I.G. she has enjoyed working with students who are primarily from the Latinx and Marshallese communities. Chloe has also been involved in the Volunteer Action Center literacy program in which she spends time reading to local elementary children. Beyond her work with Dream B.I.G. and the VAC, she has been involved in many other efforts to serve the community:

    • Vice-President of Philanthropy and Community Service, Panhellenic Executive Board (2018)
    • Vice-President, UA Pre-Law Society (2018-2019)
    • Orientation Mentor, New Student Orientation, UA Admissions Office (Summer 2017)
    • Intern, Office of U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (Summer 2018)
    • Intern, Fayetteville Public Schools (Fall 2018)

    Chloe has been recognized her academic performance and community service by making the Dean’s List (Spring 2016) and receiving both the Chancellor’s Award and the Presidential Award for volunteer hours (2017). Chloe’s faculty have many positive remarks to offer:

    • “She is an attentive and driven student”
    • “Very passionate about social welfare and diversity
    • She has excelled in field and other courses
    • “Demonstrates consistent meaningful participation”
    • “Always encouraging to her peers”
    • “Maintains a positive attitude and willingness to learn and help in any way she can”
    • Chloe “always makes her clients, families and students, feel comfortable”

    Chloe has made such meaningful contributions to her community because of her commitment to investing considerable time and energy to her community. Additionally, she is actively seeking opportunities that challenge her to grow beyond her comfort zone. At the UA School of Social Work, we have no doubt that Chloe will to strengthen her community by creating supportive, inclusive spaces that anyone can enjoy. As evidenced by her drive for her studies and service, Chloe will be the very kind of life-long learner that the profession of social work requires.

    Student Accomplishments

    Academic

    • Chloe maintains a cumulative 3.5 GPA and a 3.86 in social work courses
    • Receives overwhelmingly positive feedback from social work faculty
    • Engages in significant community service that aligns with the social work profession and intentionally utilizes these opportunities to facilitate her own personal and professional growth

    Community (see above nomination letter)

    • Volunteer work and internships with local schools and UA campus
    • Influencing public policy by interning with a U.S. congresswoman
    • Pursues leadership positions that allow her to make positive contributions
    • Prioritizes diversity and inclusion in her service work

    PUBLIC CITIZEN OF THE YEAR

    RUTH COKER BURKS

    Ruth Cocker Burks cared for hundreds of dying people, many of them gay men who had been abandoned by their families. She buried more than three dozen of them herself, after their families refused to claim their bodies. For many of those people, she is now the only person who knows the location of their graves. It started in 1984, in a hospital hallway. Ruth Coker Burks was 25 and a young mother when she went to University Hospital in Little Rock to help care for a friend who had cancer. Her friend eventually went through five surgeries, so Burks spent a lot of time that year in hospitals. That’s where she was when she noticed a door with “a big, red bag” over it. It was a patient’s room. “I would watch the nurses draw straws to see who would go in and check on him. It’d be: ‘Best two out of three,’ and then they’d say, ‘Can we draw again?’”

    She knew what it probably was, even though it was early enough in the epidemic for the disease to be called GRID, gay-related immune deficiency, instead of AIDS. Whether because of curiosity or — as she believes today — some higher power moving her, Burks eventually disregarded the warnings on the red door and snuck into the room. In the bed was a skeletal young man, wasted away to less than 100 pounds. He told her he wanted to see his mother before he died. “I walked out and [the nurses] said, ‘You didn’t go in that room, did you?’” Burks recalled. “I said, ‘Well, yeah. He wants his mother.’ They laughed and said, ‘Honey, his mother’s not coming. He’s been here six weeks. Nobody’s coming.’” Unwilling to take no for an answer, Burks wrangled a number for the young man’s mother out of one of the nurses and called. She was able to speak for only a moment before the woman hung up on her. “I called her back,” Burks said. “I said, ‘If you hang up on me again, I will put your son’s obituary in your hometown newspaper and I will list his cause of death.’ Then I had her attention.”

    The woman told Burks her son was a sinner, that she didn’t know what was wrong with him, didn’t care, and she wouldn’t even claim his body when he died. It was a curse Burks would hear again and again over the next decade: sure judgment and yawning hellfire, abandonment on a platter of scripture. Burks estimates she worked with more than 1,000 people dying of AIDS over the years. Of those, she said, only a handful of families didn’t turn their backs on their loved ones. Burks hung up the phone, trying to decide what she should tell the dying man. “I went back in his room,” she said, “and when I walked in, he said, ‘Oh, momma. I knew you’d come,’ and then he lifted his hand. And what was I going to do? So I took his hand. I said, ‘I’m here, honey. I’m here.’” Burks pulled a chair to his bedside, talked to him, and held his hand. She bathed his face with a cloth and told him she was there. “I stayed with him for 13 hours while he took his last breaths on Earth,” she said.

    Since at least the late 1880s, Burks’s kin have been buried in Files Cemetery in Hot Springs, which the family eventually came to own. “I always wondered what I was going to do with a cemetery. Who knew there’d come a time when people didn’t want to bury their children?” Burks recalled. That’s where she buried the ashes of the man she’d seen die. “No one wanted him,” she said, “and I told him in those long 13 hours that I would take him to my beautiful little cemetery, where my daddy and grandparents were buried, and they would watch out over him.”

    Burks had to contract with a funeral home in Pine Bluff, some 70 miles away, for the cremation. It was the closest funeral home she could find that would even touch the body. She paid for the cremation out of her savings then went to Files Cemetery and dug a hole in the middle of her father’s grave. “I knew that Daddy would love that about me,” she said, “and I knew that I would be able to find him if I ever needed to find him.” She put the urn in the hole and prayed over the grave.

    Over the next few years, Burks would bury more than 40 people in Files Cemetery. She believes the number is 43. Somewhere in her attic, in dozens of yellowed day planners she calls her Books of the Dead filled with the appointments, setbacks, and medications of people 30 years gone, there is a list of names. After she cared for the dying man at University Hospital, people started calling asking for her help. She began getting referrals from rural hospitals all over the state. Financing her work through donations and sometimes out of her own pocket, she’d take patients to their appointments, help them get assistance when they could no longer work, help them get their medicines, and try to cheer them up when the depression was dark as a pit.

    Burks said the financial help given to patients — from burial expenses to medications to rent for those unable to work — couldn’t have happened without the support of the gay clubs around the state, particularly Little Rock’s Discovery. “They would twirl up a drag show on Saturday night and here’d come the money,” she said. “That’s how we’d buy medicine, that’s how we’d pay rent. If it hadn’t been for the drag queens, I don’t know what we would have done.”

    She recalled the odd sensation of sitting with dying people while they filled out their own death certificates, because Burks knew she wouldn’t be able to call on their families for the required information. “We’d sit and fill it out together,” she said. “Can you imagine filling out your death certificate before you die? But I didn’t have that information. I wouldn’t have their mother’s maiden name or this, that, or the other. So I’d get a pizza and we’d have pizza and fill out the death certificate.”

    Ruth had a stroke five years ago, early enough in her life that she can’t help but believe that the stress of the bad old days had something to do with it. After the stroke, she had to relearn everything: to talk, to feed herself, to read and write. It’s probably a miracle she’s not buried in Files Cemetery herself.

    After better drugs, education, understanding, and treatment made her work obsolete, she moved to Florida for several years, where she worked as a funeral director and a fishing guide. When Bill Clinton was elected president, she served as a White House consultant on AIDS education. In 2013, she went to bat for three foster children who were removed from the elementary school at nearby Pea Ridge after administrators heard that one of them might be HIV-positive. Burks said she couldn’t believe she was still dealing with the same knee-jerk fears in the 21st century.

    The work she and others did in the 1980s and 1990s has mostly been forgotten, partly because so many of those she knew back then have died. She’s not the only one who did that work, but she’s one of the few who survived. And so she has become the keeper of memory. Before she’s gone, she said, she’d like to see a memorial erected in Files Cemetery. Something to tell people the story. A plaque. A stone. A listing of the names of the unremembered dead who lie there. “Someday,” she said, “I’d love to get a monument that says: This is what happened. In 1984, it started. They just kept coming and coming. And they knew they would be remembered, loved, and taken care of, and that someone would say a kind word over them when they died.”

    PUBLIC ELECTED OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR

    JUDGE WENDELL L. GRIFFEN

    Judge Wendell Griffin is an Arkansas lawyer, jurist, legal educator, business leader, ordained minister, and public speaker. Born in Prescott, Arkansas, Judge Griffen attended the University of Arkansas School of Law from August 1976 through May 1979, when he received the Juris Doctor degree. While in law school, he served in the Student Bar Association, was president of the Black Law Student Association, and was Associate Editor of the Arkansas Law Review. He was awarded the first Silas Hunt Memorial Justice Award presented by the Black Law Student Association in memory of Silas Hunt, the first black law student admitted to an institution of higher education below the Mason Dixon line, in 1979.

    After graduation from law school Judge Griffen joined the Little Rock law firm of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings, becoming the first lawyer of color to join a major Arkansas law firm. He practiced business and tort litigation with the firm and was admitted to the partnership in January 1984, becoming the first lawyer of color admitted to the partnership of a major Arkansas law firm.

    On April 15, 1985, Governor Bill Clinton appointed him Chairman of the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission, making Griffen the first person of color named to that state agency and the first to chair it. Griffen served in that position until February 2, 1987, when he returned to his law practice with Wright, Lindsey & Jennings. Governor Jim Guy Tucker appointed Judge Griffen to the Court of Appeals in December 1995, and he began entered judicial service January 1, 1996.

    While on the Court of Appeals, Griffen remained active in professional, civic, and religious life, including service as President of the Pulaski County Bar Association, President of the Judge William R. Overton Inn of Court, Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Little Rock, and Parliamentarian of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Judge Griffen concluded his tenure on the Arkansas Court of Appeals at the end of 2008. From 2009-2010, Griffen joined the faculty of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law as a Visiting Professor of Law teaching pretrial criminal procedure and leading the seminar Cultural Competency, Inclusion, and Law.

    In 2011, Judge Griffen was elected as judge to Arkansas’s Sixth Circuit for Pulaski County. In addition to this, he currently serves as pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock and CEO of Griffen Strategic Consulting, a consulting practice focused on cultural competency and inclusion. He has published the book The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope (Judson Press), manages a blog on faith and the law, Justice is a verb!, and co-hosts The Barbershop Radio Hour, a weekly call in show centering around issues of social justice on KABF 88.3. He is married to Dr. Patricia L. Griffen, a clinical psychologist practicing in Little Rock, and they are parents to two sons: Martyn and Elliott.

    On April 14, 2017, Judge Griffen issued a temporary restraining order that effectively halted six scheduled executions, the first applications of capital punishment in Arkansas since 2005. Judge Griffen generated controversy that same day, Good Friday, when he joined an anti-death penalty protest organized by his church outside the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. Calls for Griffen’s impeachment soon spread across the state. In a special session in April 2017, the state legislature, which has never impeached an elected official since the adoption of the 1874 Arkansas Constitution, voted 73-13 to establish a legal framework for impeachment.

    When asked whether a can judge be an activist, Griffen responded:

    “I think a judge can be a human. And that means they can be activist if they choose to be, or less activist if they choose to be. “Activist” is a term I find to be rather value-laden. People call folks “activists” not based upon whether or not the activity is permissible, but based on whether or not they agree with the activity. If you like what the judge does, then the judge is right. If you dislike what the judge does, the judge is an activist. I’d rather say that I like being a judge who knows my obligations to the bench and knows my freedom in society. And I recognize that those obligations and freedoms are not necessarily inconsistent or contradictory.”

    Griffen says he has been inspired to service since childhood by the Gospel of Jesus and by his experience growing up in the segregated South during the 1950s.

    “I know firsthand what it means to live in an oppressive society where the decks in the halls of law are stacked against one based upon personhood, whether it’s racial identity, sex, religion, nationality, and now sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability status. I know what that means. And having grown up in that environment, I was moved to dedicate myself to do two things: first, to learn as much as I could about democracy and the rule of law; and, secondly, to apply myself as much as possible to serve humanity in a way that is consistent with my understanding of the religion of Jesus and the highest ideals of our constitutional democracy.”

    When asked what justice means to him, Griffen said:

    “Justice is typically viewed as a noun—the name for either an office or a process. Justice, however, must be understood as something that must be done. We do justice. And I draw from the admonition in Micah, where the prophet writes, what does the Lord require of me but to do justice and love mercy and to walk humbly with God? Justice has to be done. And doing is verb stuff; doing is not noun stuff. Doing is acting, protecting, defending, sharing. Justice involves generosity, and welcoming, and inclusion, and refusing to allow the status quo to operate as an excuse for oppression. Those are things that we must do in order for justice to happen.”

    Judge Wendell Griffen stands firmly in what’s morally sound, giving voice to the voiceless in Arkansas, including openly embracing the LGBTQ community, a bold stance for such a high profile man in the conservative religious and legal circles of Arkansas. On a gurney several feet away from the governor’s front door, Griffen laid down to stand in his truth, dignified in his defiance, and motivated by justice. For his many acts in advancing social justice and his service to the people of Arkansas as an elected jurist, Judge Wendell Griffen should receive the 2019 NASW Arkansas Public Elected Official of the Year.

    AGENCY OF THE YEAR

    JUDICIAL EQUALITY FOR MENTAL ILLNESS (JEMI)

    JEMI, was formed the end of 2012. A woman from the community had been held in the Benton County jail for 9 months awaiting an evaluation at the Arkansas State Hospital. She died there from undiagnosed and untreated pancreatic cancer. As a result of this incident the judicial community, the mental health community, and Washington and Benton County jails came together to form JEMI.

    They agreed there had long been a great need to change the revolving door of persons with mental illness being held in jails, and to their warehousing in the penal system. At the present time, people suffering from mental illnesses who act out publicly are sent to a hospital emergency room or jailed. Such a solution to the problem is expensive, inefficient and cruel, and makes poor use of medical, court and law enforcement resources.

    A web of Community Mental Health Centers was built across the country to serve people with a mental illness. Federal support for this change worked well, and persons with mental illness began to receive early and ongoing intervention. Unfortunately, over time funding has been withdrawn and that is where we are today.

    The national safety net for persons with mental illness is gone: there are too few psychiatrists or low income treatment options available. In most cases, there is no ongoing interaction or active follow up between patient and case managers, social workers or doctors. There is not a process for developing a relationship between the individual needing care and the care providers, an important component that could keep someone with a mental illness from getting to the point of acting out.

    Some states, Missouri for example, have chosen to take over the responsibility of caring for persons with mental illness by voting to permanently designate a portion of state taxes for that purpose. The citizens of Missouri had the will to be sure this population was not neglected.

    Arkansas presently does not have adequate funding for persons with mental illness. The general public has little understanding of the issues involved. Recently the Arkansas Department of Human Services has begun to give more attention to serving people with mental illness and has tasked their Department of Behavioral Health Services to look into correcting some of the problems that we are speaking about today.

    In addition to all of the above, the State of Arkansas is required by the Arkansas Constitution, Article 19, Section 19, to comply as follows: “It shall be the duty of the General Assembly to provide by law for the support of institutions … for the treatment of the insane.”

    This is not happening. JEMI is currently working with the State to fill this very important void.