The Mental Health Association of Erie County — a nonprofit agency with programs that span the region — has changed its name to Mental Health Advocates of Western New York.
"The new name, and logo, are a reflection of what we've become and, really more importantly, where we're going," Executive Director Ken Houseknecht said of the change, which became official on Wednesday.
Out is a blue-and-white logo that features a Liberty-style bell emblazoned with a human profile. The new logo — created by Riveter Design of Orchard Park — touts a modern design. It includes the new agency name and the words "BE HEARD. BE HELPED." Aqua lines drawn into a human head curl at the brain into the shape of a heart.
"There's a lot more than brain chemistry that affects a person's mental health," Houseknecht said. "That's what we're trying to communicate with the head and the heart tied together."
Riveter staff also worked on the agency's Just Tell One campaign, a peer-to-peer prevention and early intervention campaign that encourages those aged 14 to 26 to reach out for help when challenged by depression, alcohol or drug abuse, or thoughts of suicide.
The MHA, established in 1962, created justtellone.org — as well Mindset, a workplace mental wellness program – during the last two years. Both spill beyond Erie County, as do longer-standing programs that help those with mental illness and their families better navigate health, legal and independent living challenges. The agency also supports children and families of those in the military and leads mental health awareness trainings in school and community settings.
For many families touched by mental illness, its most important work involves connecting with individuals and families in crisis in mental health emergency rooms and inpatient units across the region, most notably the Erie County Medical Center Regional Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health. Staff and volunteers helped nearly 10,000 people in this capacity alone during the last year.
"All of our folks who work in that program have lived experience," Houseknecht said. "Either they or a family member has lived with a mental health diagnosis. They've been through that program and those systems themselves."
The budget this year for Mental Health Advocates of Western New York approaches $2.9 million. Funding comes from a variety of governmental, foundation, corporate and individual support, as well as fees for some services. It has a staff of about 50, as well as dozens of volunteers, including more than 50 alone for the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, which looks out for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in child welfare proceedings.
Contact what still will be known for short as the MHA at mhawny.org or 886-1242.