Brown steps down from ‘fighting the stigma’ of mental illness


By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 12:15 pm on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Robert Brown is retiring as the longtime director of the Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health in Stanton. — Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon

STANTON — The Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health has seen many changes during Robert Brown’s tenure as executive director.

Staff at the center grew from 41 employees in 1990 to 66 employees currently serving more than 1,300 Montcalm County residents each year through programs such as outpatient therapy, case management and home-based services.

The mental health budget for Montcalm County grew from $3.2 million to more than $9.6 million as the mental health system moved away from institutionalization and began supporting individuals in their own communities.

Brown is retiring as director of the Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health after 25 years of service. An open house in his honor will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the center, located at 611 N. State St. in Stanton.

A native of Indiana, Brown earned his master’s degree from Central Michigan University and took his first job in the mental health system at Lake County Community Mental Health in 1974. He came to the Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health as program director in 1987 and was promoted to executive director in 1990.

Brown said the most rewarding part of his career has been observing the expansion of services and support for those who need mental health treatment.

“People with mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance abuse disorders are leading productive lives in the community, as opposed to living in state institutions, which was quite common when I started my career in mental health nearly 40 years ago,” he said.

Tammy Quillan

Major challenges over the years included obtaining adequate funding for the center’s services and “fighting the stigma” that exists for people with mental health issues, according to Brown.

“Acceptance of mental health services is more common today, but that stigma is still a barrier for those who need our services,” he said.

Brown said watching mental health patients recover and grow despite their challenges has been a fulfilling part of his career.

“Best practice treatments and better medications have had a huge impact on the positive outcomes our consumers achieve,” he said. “I watch our workers go above and beyond every day to help the people we serve. Our mental health board has supported our services and has set the direction for our agency. I feel fortunate to have worked for them. There is not a finer group of individuals than the board members and staff I have worked with over the years.”

Center for Behavioral Health Associate Director of Clinical Services Julianna Kozara said Brown truly reflects the journey of the overall mental health system through his career.

“He has lived it all, from working directly as a case manager with consumers in the institution of Traverse City, segregated from society, to being director of a center for mental health that employs persons with mental illness as peer supports to share their talents and abilities with the community,” Kozara said. “What is most admirable about him is how he has demonstrated that, though many changes come and challenges arise, keeping focused on the people we serve is always most important.”

The Center for Behavioral Health Board of Directors has named Tammy Quillan as its new executive director. Quillan was born and raised in Montcalm County and currently resides in Greenville.

Quillan was hired as a secretary at the Ionia Center for Mental Health and worked her way to becoming quality manager over the next decade. She left her job to earn her master’s degree at Western Michigan University, then took a job at the Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health.

“For the past seven years, I’ve worked closely with Bob Brown to expand my knowledge of the mental health system, both at a local and state level,” Quillan said. “I feel very fortunate to have had such an amazing mentor. His wisdom and leadership were key to keeping the agency on course as Michigan’s mental health system changed and evolved over the years.”

Quillan’s longterm goals as director include ensuring the ongoing viability of the agency and strengthening and expanding partnerships in the community as the mental health field moves toward integrated care.

“I look forward to meeting with local community leaders and human service providers to find new and unique ways of working together for the benefit of our mutual consumers,” Quillan said. “Hopefully, in time, as services truly become integrated and we are working to treat the whole person for both their physical and mental health needs, the stigma associated with mental illnesses will go away.”

The Montcalm Center for Behavioral Health primarily serves individuals with serious and persistent mental illnesses and/or developmental disabilities. For more information about mental health and substance abuse services available in Montcalm County, call 1-800-448-5498 or visit www.mcbh.org online.

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