Community mental health group reaches beyond the services they provide

The Centra Wellness Network is a non-profit governmental agency, that provides services to support individuals living with mental illness or developmental disabilities.

MANISTEE COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) A northern Michigan community health system is working to provide better and accessible mental health care.

The Centra Wellness Network is a non-profit governmental agency that provides services to support individuals living with mental illness or developmental disabilities.

The network asssists hundreds in Benzie and Manistee counties. The help people with severe and persistent mental illness, intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) and severe emotional disabilities (SED).

Right now officials with the network are stressing the importance of recovery and independence for those living with mental illness.

“Our mission statement says enhancing freedoms so I would say that’s our primary objective,” said Erin King, the director of customer and provider services with the Central Wellness Network. “You know what is the life that you want to live, and what can we do to get you to that life that is as independent as possible.”

Money for the community mental health services come from Medicaid funds from the state as well as funds matched by the counties.

Recently coordinators have helped write grants for organizations outside of the network like independent drop-in centers in the area.

“So maybe [those living with mental illness] don’t care for [central mental health] services, that’s not what they’re interested in or are not eligible, but the drop-in is something outside of that system that they can get help in their journey for recovery," King said.

One of those drop-in organizations is the Manistee Friendship Society. The friendship society offers a social environment for those living with mental illness like games, crafts, group sessions and even food assistance.

“We built into the grant some ability to support them and purchasing tickets or passes for the health center and so they do that on a monthly basis” said Karen Goodman, director of systems development who wrote the most recent grant. “So anyone that comes [to the friendship society] and participates in the friendship center can go to the wellness center so they can work out.”

Money from the grants Goodman writes also helps the friendship society provide healthy food to members.

Chirstine Hall is one of the more than 200 members of the friendship society.

“We all chit chat and have fun and play pool and karaoke and bingo, and it makes you feel open that there are other people in your shoes,” Hall said.

She also receives therapy services at the Centra Wellness Network for anxiety and migraines. Right now Hall says she is without a place to live, so the meals and interaction with other’s in her situation is helping her get by.

“It’s very important for us to be if people aren’t qualified for other services they can still come here and get the peer support and use all of our resources,” said Cassandra Kamaloski, executive director of the Manistee Friendship Society. “We just want everyone to feel accepted.”

With the help of Goodman and the Centra Wellness Network, the friendship society has received a separate grant that will allow the non-profit to put a large sign near the highway so people are aware of the location and services.

Kamaloski says to be a member of the society, someone has to be older than the age of 18 and diagnosed with a psychiatric illness in the past or present.

Other members like Art Burkel say the non-profit and help from the Centra Wellness Network helps address the societal stigma of mental illness.

"This place comes with some stigma sometimes but it's simple, all you have to do is lose a job or things go wrong or become depressed, there's a lot of reasons people come here," Burkel said. "But this helps us be able to come here, relate to others and show us how to get a long in life and make it through and re-arrange your life."

The Centra Wellness Network has a 24-hour crisis line for anyone to call: 877-389-2013

“Even if you aren’t on Medicaid and have your own insurance or don’t have insurance at all, we will help direct you to whatever resource you need in your community,” King said. “We will never turn anyone down for guidance when it comes to receiving help, we all reach low times and hard ships but that’s what we are here for.”

For a full list of what services are provided through Centra Wellness Network click HERE and other local resources click HERE

The network is one of five Community Mental Health Service Programs (CMHSPs) in northern Michigan. Those five programs include networks similar to Centra Wellness in the 21 counties that are a part of the Northern Michigan Regional Entity (NMRE).

For other resources in the surrounding counties you can click HERE


Benzie County

6051 Frankfort Hwy suit 200

Benzonia, MI 49616

Manistee County

2198 US 31 S.

Manistee, MI 49660



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