Tom PetrizzoWe celebrated “Welcome Back Day” at our main location at Tri-County Mental Health Services in June. After a year of mostly working from home, we wanted to celebrate returning to something close to “normal.” Staff members and consumers enjoyed a beautiful day at the office featuring bright sunshine, games on the lawn and plenty of great food from local food trucks.

Seeing everyone again reminds me of the challenges of the past year. Our accelerated shift to telehealth allowed us to serve thousands of people without the risk of spreading the virus. Our Medical Services team developed a streamlined procedure to safely provide injections to those who needed them. So many of our staff members showed creativity and determination in helping those who required mental health assistance in the Northland.

Instead of looking back, though, I want to look forward.

On July 6, we will return to our Open Access model, where people in need of services for the first time can simply walk-in to our offices between 8:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. and get started on their path to better health, without making an appointment. Seeing people coming into our lobby and getting the help they need, when they need it most – that will be a tremendous feeling for all of us.

Also, our new fiscal year started July 1, and we will be adding more school-based clinicians, more community mental health liaisons to assist our law enforcement agencies, and more team members for crisis response. By adding these positions and keeping our services as open and available as possible, we believe we will be well-positioned to answer the ongoing mental health needs of our community as we enter the next phase of the COVID pandemic.

“Welcome Back Day” was a big success, and it felt good to see so many staff members in person for the first time in a long time – instead of in boxes on my laptop screen on a Zoom call. While we will remain vigilant about variants and infection rates, we are looking forward to getting back together, serving the people of the Northland, and supporting the health and well-being of our community.