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It’s All in the Name

Mental Health Partnerships

A few years ago, Mental Health Partnerships (MHP), then known as Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP), began expanding its supporter base and recruiting board members from outside the behavioral health space. But people from the corporate and business worlds didn’t easily grasp what the organization was all about. The name “Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania” didn’t say it all!

“We’re not an association in the traditional way people understand associations, and we’ve also grown and expanded beyond Southeastern Pennsylvania—so the name wasn’t reflective of what we do, where we operate, and who we are,” says Michael Brody, MHP president and CEO. “We began some inward reflection and embarked on a refresh of our visual brand, including a new name, logo, and website.”

MHP spent more than a year on the rebrand effort, enlisting help from a noted branding agency that walked Brody and MHP’s board and staff through the process. After considering multiple name possibilities, including Bellspeara as a nod to the Mental Health Bell,* the team landed on Mental Health Partnerships. With the name unveiling came the launch of a new logo that incorporates the bell and a tagline defining MHP’s promise: Together, we build hope.

“It was a difficult process to get to the new name,” explains Brody. “But we love where we landed.  Since our founding in 1951, we’ve become much more than a local provider—today, we’re in Delaware and forming strategic partnerships in Southwest Jersey.”

For all the outward change, MHP remains committed to its longtime mission to promote groundbreaking ideas and create opportunities for resilience and recovery by applying the knowledge learned from the people it supports, employs, and engages in transformative partnerships. “We are saying as loudly and clearly as possible that our values, services, and advocacy have not changed in any way,” Brody says. “Our hope is that the new name, tagline, and logo underscore our commitment to peer support and mutual self-help.”

MHP is one of two MHAPA affiliates to recently change its name. Earlier this year Mental Health America of Westmoreland County became Mental Health America of Southwestern Pennsylvania (MHASWPA). The name change better reflects the services that they are already providing. Like MHP, it had also outgrown its original moniker as the organization began expanding beyond Westmoreland County borders to Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Fayette, Cambria, Green, Indiana, and Somerset counties. And as a member of the consortium that provides HealthCare.gov navigators, MHASWPA serves the western part of the state with Health Insurance Marketplace Navigators.

In these areas, the needs for services and advocacy are growing, both for individuals at the service level and with legislators at the policy level.  At the same time, providers are closing and services are increasingly cut because of decreased state funding. MHASWPA has stepped in to help fill the growing gaps.

“Our region is in the grips of the opioid epidemic and people who are addicted often have mental health issues. We have begun to provide supportive services for these people as well.” says Laurie Barnett Levine, executive director of MHASWPA. “Across the area, suicide rates are rising. We have been very active with the local task force promoting education and prevention.”

Areas without a mental health association would benefit from additional advocates. For example, Allegheny County is the second largest county in the state, but it doesn’t have a mental health association. There are a great number of unmet needs  for mental health programs and services beyond what the government can fund.

Says Levine, “with our presence, we can advocate for increased state funding. And we hope to increase our own funding to better reach into counties that do not have an MHA. We can also partner with Southwestern PA counties that have mental health associations to increase impact.”

Levine, like Brody in Philadelphia, is quick to point out that the name changes isn’t a change in services or programs. Says Levine, “By changing our name and broadening our geography we’re aiming to increase our services—not change them.”

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*Commissioned by Mental Health America in the 1950s, the Mental Health Bell was forged from old chains and shackles collected from asylums. Once used by institutions as restraints, they were melted to form a 300-pound bell that symbolizes hope for people living with mental illness and victory over mental disorders. The bell is housed at Mental Health America’s national office. More here.


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