NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION --
During a visit to the base earlier this year, Lt. Gen. James Jackson, serving as the commander of Air Force Reserve Command, met with Dan Norton, Director of Psychological Health, 914th Airlift Wing, for a short briefing about the status of mental health at NFARS and heard about the work of community partners who assist the base in this regard. Jackson wrote a letter to recognize the hard work that the staff of one particular organization had done to assist the installation and the command.
On Thursday, Aug. 26, 2016, Col. Brian Bowman, commander, 914th Airlift Wing, and Norton traveled to the Niagara County Department of Mental Health to present that letter and discuss the relationship between community partners.
"The reason the relationship with Niagara County (Department of Mental Health) is so important to the base is my credentials with the Air Force are limited in scope once members leave the base," said Norton, “As a reserve base, many of the personnel who are assigned here, live farther away in different towns and communities.”
The Niagara County Department of Mental Health assists the base by providing additional services as requested and amplifying the reach of Norton’s office and capabilities. The facility offers such programs as: adult behavioral health counseling, 24-hour crisis services, suicide prevention education and disaster mental health preparation. Laura Kelemen, director, Michael White, deputy director and Jim Swift, supervising social worker crisis services, sat with Bowman and Norton to discuss the relationship with the base.
“It’s a great partnership with Dan Norton,” said Kelemen. “We have regular communication with what’s happening on the base, if there’s a need he’ll pick up the phone to ask for assistance. We’ve done some training with the Airmen and are willing to do that at any time.”
Being recognized by senior leadership was a huge distinction for the mental health professionals. The job they do often isn’t thought about until it is needed. Jackson speaks on behalf of the 70,000 personnel assigned to Air Force Reserve Command in his letter when he says “The community outreach you provide is a model for others to follow. Please know that your dedication to our Airmen is greatly appreciated.”
“I’m very honored to receive this letter,” said Kelemen. “We work very hard to make sure all of the needs of the community members are met. The Air Force Reservists, the individuals who are keeping our country safe and secure--keeping their psychological health in good stead is very important to us.”
Like many mental health professionals, Kelemen and the staff don’t do what they do for recognition. They just want to make sure the community, including the base, is taken care of.
“It’s so important that we don’t take support like this for granted,” said Bowman. “These relationships are everything, and communicating and recognizing agencies like this ensure that I have the right support for my Airmen.”