Johnson Memorial Health Foundation Brings Access to Behavioral Health Care Services in Johnson County

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Returning to one’s roots can awaken feelings of nostalgia and comfort. It can also light a fire within you to improve the community in which you were raised. Such is the case for Kelsey Kasting, who lived in Johnson County her entire life up until college. After graduating with a degree in sales and marketing from Purdue University, Kasting took a job with the National FFA Organization.

“I was heavily involved in the 4-H program in Johnson County so I’ve always had a passion for agriculture,” Kasting says.

After five and a half years, she was hired by Leadership Johnson County.

“It’s a great organization that connects people of all walks of life throughout Johnson County and I met all sorts of great people, including Jennifer Tennell, Executive Director of Johnson Memorial Hospital (JMH) Foundation,” Kasting says.

Earlier this year, Tennell mentioned that she would be vacating the position in the spring and so Kasting decided to throw her hat in the ring.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for me to take my passion for nonprofits and combine it with my love for Johnson County,” she says.

She started in the role in May 2019.

The JMH Foundation Gala, the first of which was held in 2017, was created to improve access to behavioral health care in Johnson County as well as spread the word about mental health awareness. Thanks to funds generated from the Gala, the JMH Foundation has been able to launch several significant initiatives. For example, in 2018 they added a Behavioral Health Navigator to their family medicine practice. Housed in the physician office in the hospital, it’s a wonderful on-site resource for patients.

“It’s been proven that a lot of people have a hard time getting to a doctor so if, while seeing their doctor for an exam, a follow-up appointment is suggested, often patients fail to come,” Kasting says. “But if a physician or a patient has a concern while they are there, our Behavioral Health Navigator, Tricia Duncan, can meet with them right then. It helps provide wraparound services.”

Duncan assists patients in navigating through behavior health care and connecting them with the proper resources.

In addition, this year the Gala’s funds enabled the Foundation to embed a Masters Level Clinician, Kimberly Beck, to work two full days a week in their family practice.

“She can do on-site therapy as well as conduct full health assessments and develop treatment plans,” says Kasting, noting that Beck has an abundance of experience treating all ages, as well as lots of experience with PTSD.

“By adding the therapist, we’re coming full circle in being able to help people immediately,” Kasting says.

As the Gala grows and proceeds increase, they hope to stretch that into a full-time position.

The most prevalent issues they see include depression, anxiety and grief.

“Mental health does not discriminate,” Kasting says. “Almost everyone has a family member or knows someone who has a family member who has been affected by some sort of mental health issue.”

She mentions that recently she read an article about the suicide rate in Johnson County, and it highlighted the youth and what the schools are doing to help with that. According to Kasting, Franklin Community Schools recently passed a referendum, and some of that money will go toward mental health.

Kasting enjoys the variety that her new role brings.

“I like that it’s not the same thing every day,” she says. “I get to work with donors and committees to award scholarships to students and adults to further their education in health care. I also get to prepare for our golf outing, which raises money for foundation programming.”

She also mentions coordinating and sponsoring the annual Women’s Outdoor Wellness Trip in which a group of 54 women take a five-day trip that focuses on outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, white water rafting, biking and zip-lining. This year, the ladies traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“They’re having the time of their lives as they build friendship and fellowship along the way,” says Kasting, noting that the youngest in the group this year is 38 and the oldest is 80.

And then, of course, each year Kasting gets to coordinate the fancy Gala, the next of which will take place on February 22, 2020, at the JW Marriott in downtown Indy.

“I think it’s so important as a county that we come together and provide services and resources to help people who suffer with their mental health,” Kasting says.

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