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We have Bert Nash, its staff and services to thank for guiding and supporting us on this journey

Updated: Jun 4

Daniel and Sally

Sally Monahan shared this testimonial at the Bert Nash Center’s annual Celebrate Bert Nash fundraising breakfast in October. We are honored to share it here.

It’s wonderful to see so many bright shining faces this morning here in support of Bert Nash and its critical mission to advance the health of the Douglas County community through comprehensive behavioral health services responsive to evolving needs and changing environments. My name is Sally Monahan, and I am so honored to speak to you all today about what Bert Nash has done in my life and my family’s. I want to thank all of you for attending this event and supporting their mission. I would like to thank my company, Laser Logic, for co-sponsoring the event and supporting me, the incredible team of providers and staff who care for us, my friends in attendance, and, most especially, my son Daniel, for being here and allowing me to share our experience with you all.

We all have dates in our lives that mark important and life-changing events. I’d like to share with you some meaningful dates that represent different chapters of our journey and how we picked up survival skills and a team of supporters along the way.

Oct. 25, 2023: My daughter is one of those people who always reads the last chapter of any book first. While I view this as a sacrilege, she tells me that she wants to know where and how things will end up in the story. If only we could do that in real life, right? Well, here’s our chance. As of today, I have an 18-year-old daughter, Sophia, who is a freshman at the University of New Mexico, studying painting, and enjoying her independence and adventures. After nearly 17 years in the nonprofit sector, I have a fairly new job that I am really enjoying. I’ve moved into a new home, selling my home of nearly ten years, and I’m starting a new chapter as a single person after 25 years. And I have a 16-year-old son, Daniel, who is a junior at LHS. He loves video games, celebrity roasts, listening to music, all things Marvel and is a LEGO master. He’s funny, compassionate, loving, forgiving, and resilient. He’s depressed, anxious, stressed, often suicidal, and he attends the Secondary Therapeutic Classroom (STC) at Community Connections at Pinckney. This is a specialized program for students with severe emotional disturbance. And he’s here with us today, generous enough to allow me to share his story and a glimpse of what it’s like to live and struggle with mental health issues every day.

Here's how we got to where we are today.

January 23, 2020: is the day that life as we knew it ended and life as we now know it began. Daniel suffered severe bullying in middle school. He barely made it through sixth grade, and seventh grade was 10 times worse, resulting in incessant handwashing, texting me throughout the day, and constant stress and anxiety about attending school. His father and I were at school at least once a week talking to administration and trying to put an end to this. A bright spot in those days was his WRAP therapist, Shelley Bointy. That day when I picked him up from school, he told me that his day ended with being hit in the back of the head by another student who just felt like doing it. He said that was his final straw. When we pulled into the carport, he said that he was having bad thoughts all day. I asked what that meant, and he made a stabbing motion to his chest. I said, “You want to stab yourself?” He said yes.

We went to see his primary care provider who gave Daniel a depression evaluation and told us to go to the ER immediately. We waited for hours in a bleak room in the secure unit, Daniel in a set of paper scrubs looking tiny and hopeless. After evaluations by the physician and the social worker on duty, we determined that he did not need to go to an inpatient facility and created a safety plan to allow him to stay at home. We have never been off that safety plan for almost four years.

Therapy and medication followed, and things improved somewhat. We were able to transfer Daniel to Billy Mills Middle School and he was assigned WRAP therapist Rose Murray, who was literally a life saver. I completed the intake paperwork for him to receive therapy and medication management at Bert Nash in February 2021 and since then we have added many more services, facilitated by the amazing staff here. From med providers to therapists, appointment schedulers (Deb and Beth are rock stars!) and behavioral health support staff, everyone has played a critical role in assisting along the way.

August 28, 2021: Ten days after starting his freshman year at Lawrence High School with a positive attitude and enthusiasm, we ended up back in the ER. This time he wasn’t sure that he could be safe at home, so he was transported in a secure vehicle to Stormont-Vail for an inpatient stay. He didn’t want to go. He begged and pleaded with me not to send him away. He promised to be good and said he’d never do anything bad again. I assured him that he was good and he hadn’t done anything bad while my heart broke. To this day that is the hardest thing I have ever done. Daniel was an inpatient for three days and came home on the same safety plan developed in 2020. He almost never attended a full day of school for the rest of the 2021-2022 school year, and I juggled caring for him and his sister, keeping a household running, and working a more than full-time job. He struggled and had suicidal ideation every day for well over a year and Wrap therapist Renee Robinson was the person who walked beside us.

January 2023: Daniel’s suicidal ideation ramped up and we visited Crisis Access multiple times in the winter and early spring. Sometimes it was during the school day, sometimes after a regular therapy session, and sometimes in the evening, racing to get there before 8pm. By this time, he had qualified for the SED Waiver (which allows clients with severe emotional disturbance who wouldn’t normally qualify for Medicaid/KanCare to access that program and receive services they otherwise would not be able to access or afford). He was attending the STC, and we had a Wraparound Services team in place, led by our awesome waiver facilitator, Heather Clark. Daniel and our family gained access to services including case management, respite and attendant care, parent support, and, most recently, nutrition case management. His team helped him set goals for home and school life and discussed ways that he could advocate for himself. In the fall of 2022 Daniel was referred to the adolescent Dialectical Behavioral Therapy group, a 26-week parent-child program covering all of the DBT modules. This was an incredible gift, not just for Daniel but for me. In fact, I’m not quite sure where I’d be without having participated in it. It was a huge challenge for Daniel to sit in a group of other high needs kids while trying to absorb the material. Doing the daily and weekly work and learning to be introspective was a critical skill in learning to self-regulate and to advocate for himself. (PSA – if you are not familiar with DBT and its benefits, familiarize yourself – ASAP.) Sitting in that group helped me navigate the crushing stress and anxiety of caring for my son, helped me learn better ways to communicate and to support him, and to manage feeling absolutely overwhelmed with the end of my marriage, running an organization by myself, and raising two teenagers who both had high needs. I was able to function and to keep moving forward.

Being on-call 24/7/365 for my son eventually meant that I gave up my own therapy sessions, which I desperately needed. In addition to the DBT group, Parent Support group with Rebecca Pickering was a critical support to my mental health, not just for the chance to talk with her and other caregivers about the stark reality of raising a child with severe emotional problems and constant struggles, but for the coping skills and encouragement gained. To be honest, sometimes the realization that other parents have it worse and that you’re doing some things right is a much-needed boost!

April 10, 2023: I started my second week at my first new job in 10 years by going to the new Treatment and Recovery Center (TRC) of Douglas County to check the copiers Laser Logic had installed several months before. The staff were terrific and gave me a quick tour of the facility, and I was impressed. Upon returning to the office, I got a call that Daniel was in crisis and I needed to come get him. One hour after visiting the TRC in my professional capacity I was there to access services on day one. The experience was leaps and bounds above Crisis Access and exponentially better than the ER.

Over the next month we were at the TRC once a week. The crisis counselors and med providers were so helpful, and all had something to contribute to Daniel’s treatment plan. Every time we went to Crisis Access or the TRC his case manager Courtland and our parent support Rebecca texted and called to check on us and to see if there was anything we needed or that they could do.

May 4, 2023: Daniel’s Wraparound Team was supporting us, we were learning new skills and using them, reminding ourselves that we had done hard things before and could do them again, that tomorrow would be better, letting feelings come and go, sitting in discomfort, and taking things one hour, sometimes one minute at a time. I got the phone call from school and we checked into the TRC for the fourth time in four weeks. When we determined that an inpatient stay was necessary the crisis counselor got to work finding a facility with a bed for him and went over the options with me. She scheduled the intake appointment at Marillac at KU Med and made sure I had the instructions as to what we could bring (clean underwear and one comfort item) and what the process would look like. This time I was able to drive him myself but the recriminations, anger, sadness, and pleading to not send him away were no different.

When he came home after a five-day stay his team was there to support him and me.

Over the summer Daniel was invited to work as a peer counselor for the summer psychosocial group and was able to weather hot days, active, highly challenging tweens, and his own teenage reluctance to get up early to go to work over summer break. The adult staff praised his work ethic, positive attitude and rapport with the kids. He also worked for the City Corps Pop-up Playgrounds as a play worker assisting kids with creative play. This was just a month after being hospitalized and would have been unthinkable just a few months before.

His resilience, strength, and coping skills have been put to the test and on full display as he’s navigated each day. In the past six months Daniel has faced about as many major life changes as one person can imagine including his parents’ divorce, packing, moving, and setting up a new room for himself, leaving his childhood home, his sister leaving for college, and navigating a new school building with new expectations. He’s also begun taking classes in person at LHS, which is a huge challenge and would have been too overwhelming to even consider earlier this year.

We have this organization and its staff and services to thank for guiding and supporting us on this journey. The encouragement we’ve received has helped us to recognize and remember how strong and capable we are. Not only has Daniel survived, he’s on his way to thriving, and so am I.


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