Building a Brighter Day

Sturgeon Bay residents Pat and Bob Scieszinski know firsthand the challenges of mental illness.

“We are the parents of three wonderful young men,” says Bob, who recently retired as chief financial officer of Ministry Door County Medical Center after 28 years of service. “Two of them have experienced mental health issues, and that experience led Pat and me to become advocates for mental health in our community.”

Recently, Bob and Pat discovered that Bob’s colleagues at Ministry honored them through the creation of the Brighter Day Fund, a new fund established through the Door County Medical Center Foundation to assist with the needs of daily living for those navigating mental illness. They were deeply moved.

“The fact that our friends and co-workers chose to honor us in this way is very meaningful to us,” says Bob. “It’s a cause that is close to our hearts, and a need that is finally getting the recognition it deserves here in our community.”

Bob serves as a board member at JAK’s Place, a resource and drop-in center for those affected by mental illness, as well as a member of the countywide Mental Health Focus Group. He and Pat know that those who live with mental illness not only need access to quality mental health care, but also struggle to obtain daily needs such as food, shelter and medication. “We know that people who deal with mental illness are sometimes jobless or homeless,” says Pat. “There are fallout effects for people and for their families.”

The Brighter Day Fund will offer help to individuals and be administered through Ministry’s social workers and financial counselors. “People will be able to obtain help with a minimum of red tape and paperwork,” says Bob. “The assistance will be immediate and impactful, as it should be.”

In Door County, mental health has been identified as an unmet community need through several studies, including separate Community Health Needs Assessments conducted by Ministry Door County Medical Center and Door County Public Health.

“Meeting this need is in keeping with Ministry’s mission to provide compassionate care for all people, including the most vulnerable,” says Susan Johnson, Spiritual Services Director at Ministry.

Johnson works as a liaison with area clergy, and has shared news of the fund with local religious leaders who often counsel members of their congregations or communities who are struggling.

“Another advantage to the fund is that when individuals apply for a grant, our staff will also help direct them to other services in the community that could help them,” she adds.

“The community is making strides in the area of mental health,” says Bob. “Door County’s Human Services department is on the verge of hiring a new, much-needed psychiatrist for the county, and Ministry’s primary care doctors are on the front lines of caring for patients’ mental health needs.”

Bob also cites local law enforcement including the Sheriff’s Department and the Sturgeon Bay Police as advocates for mental health. “People are becoming increasingly concerned about this issue as they realize how pervasive it is,” he says.

Donations to the Brighter Day Fund are currently being accepted, and proceeds from the Medical Center Foundation’s annual golf outing, held Aug. 28, will provide a generous start to the fund as well. The fund is expected to begin awarding monies to individuals beginning Oct. 1.

To make a donation to the Brighter Day Fund, contact Mike Herlache at the Door County Medical Center Foundation at 920.746.1071. For questions about receiving assistance from the fund, call Ministry social worker Katie Graf at 920.746.5566.