Welcome & Board

Welcome, from Ric Compton, CEO:

The intended purpose of most Annual Reports is to answer questions about what did your agency accomplish over the past year? Riverwood and our provider partners have accomplished a great deal over FY 2017 and you will see those accomplishments outlined along with listings of Riverwood Services, locations, Board Ends, Satisfaction and quality results over the next several web pages. Moreover, you will see a resource section that discusses the OK2Say program and other contact numbers.  Finally, the 2017 Annual Report is now imbedded in the Riverwoodcenter.org website that will provide the viewer with more information  on resources and hopefully answer their questions about services and beyond.

I am often asked what are the greatest challenges facing Riverwood Center and Community Mental Health Centers?  The next question is what is wrong with the Mental Health System and why can’t we fix it? The simple answer is that the system lacks the resources, either staff or money to adequately meet the overwhelming needs of people living with Mental Health, Substance Use Disorders, and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.  The answer is accurate in as much as Riverwood has continued to provide more services to more people over the past several years with a shrinking funding (Medicaid) base.  However, maybe the question we should be asking is– What is the role of the Community Mental Health in today’s health system?  Second, how does Riverwood better fill that role in our healthcare system today and beyond?

The historic purpose of Riverwood Center (a Community Mental Health Center) is to provide a comprehensive array of Mental Health, Intellectual and Developmental Disability, and Substance Use Disorder Services appropriate to conditions of individuals.  The role of Community Mental Health Centers are prescribed in the Michigan Mental Health Code and the Code further states that services shall promote the best interests of the individual and shall be designed to increase independence, improve quality of life and support community integration and inclusion. Services shall be delivered in a manner that demonstrates they are based upon recipient choice and involvement.  Furthermore, the Mental Health Code dictates the service mandates and the service priorities of Community Mental Health Centers.  The parameters outlined in the Michigan Mental Health Code create another challenge -  how do we make those parameters work in Berrien County for residents and consumers?  

Another question that I am asked is what causes mental health and substance use challenges in our populations?  Another incredibly challenging and nuanced question that does not have one all-encompassing single correct response!  The answer to the question is as diverse as the priority populations that community mental health centers serve and as complex as each consumer’s nature and nurture.   However, the trauma theory and adverse childhood experiences (ACES)  study provides a strong, graded relationship to the number of adverse childhood experience categories and a wide range of physical, emotional, and social problems including depression, suicide, substance abuse and other physical health issues!  According to the ACES study and a growing body of research, adverse childhood experiences of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, physical and/or emotional neglect) and household exposure to mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, parental separation or incarceration leads to disruptive neurodevelopment in early childhood, which then leads to emotional, social, and cognitive impairment in childhood and adolescents. 

The developmental impairments leave children vulnerable to the adoption of many health-risk behaviors which lead to; directly or indirectly, a variety of diseases (including mental and physical) and social problems.  As mental health clinicians we cannot formulate effective strategies to deal with consumer challenges unless we have a common knowledge base that explains to us what trauma, adversity and interpersonal violence actually do to the body, mind, and soul of the individual and how that affects the group.

Riverwood has been working over the past year on our own journey to become a more trauma informed agency.  Not only is Riverwood attempting to provide “trauma informed care” to our consumers but also attempting to understand and better deal with “Secondary Traumatic Stress” or STS with Riverwood Staff.   Riverwood has been working with Dr. James Henry from Western Michigan University to help staff feel valued and to better cope with the effects of secondary stress in their caregiver role. Riverwood has established an Employee STS Trauma Team that has recommended and developed organizational changes including the addition of Trauma informed to the employee orientation process.  Staff have developed an STS Emotional Support Group and other Riverwood Teams have provided similar support models for staff. A great deal of STS work still needs to be done in the Riverwood journey, particularly in the development of Resilience for both clinicians and consumers alike. Resilience is defined as the ability to return to being healthy and hopeful after bad things happen.  Creating the environment that encourages resilience in both staff and consumers is of paramount importance in any trauma informed organization.

In our everyday life, we all have challenges.  Everyone deserves optimal mental health.  An opportunity for confidential assistance is close at hand by a caring partner . . . Riverwood Center.


Ric Compton


Board of Directors, 2017:
Randy S. Hyrns, St. Joseph
Nancy Johnson, Benton Harbor
Marion Maier, Chair, Stevensville
Mike Majerek, Niles
Edward Meny, St. Joseph
Debra Panozzo, Stevensville
E. Arthur Robertson, Berrien Springs
Reema Sarkar, St. Joseph
Dara Sinnett, Watervliet
Lynn Todman, St. Joseph
Shannon Trecartin, St. Joseph
Alice Williams, Berrien Center

Board Correspondence:
May be sent to Berrien Mental Health Authority at ATTN: Administration, PO Box 547, Benton Harbor, MI 49023-0547