The Center for Mental Health is losing both its executive director and 25 years of experience in helping people suffering from mental health issues on the Hi-Line, when Joe Uhl steps down on Wednesday, Aug. 31.
Uhl is entering his last full week of work there, after which he plans on taking a month break and then jumping right back in to helping the people of Havre and the Hi-Line, possibly returning part-time, to help out as an on-call therapist two days a week and maybe doing some substitute teaching, he said.
Looking back on the two-and-a-half decades of work he has done with the center, Uhl remembered how his work changed in that time.
“The philosophy is a whole lot different now, ” Uhl said. “We were trying to keep people out of state hospitals, now we try to help people recover, with the Green Team program, job training.
“Now we actually believe people can and do recover from mental illness. ”
He said the financial side, a side he is quite familiar with as the Northern Services director, has changed a lot too, though maybe not as positively.
While he started with four employees helping about 10 patients at a time, he now has a larger staff serving 400 or 500 patients, not to mention all of the additional programs added since then.
That growth has also seen the hourly reimbursement for therapy services almost halve, from about $90 to $55.
Through those years Uhl said he is probably most proud of the Green Team program that helps patients get some work experience doing work outdoors.
“I thought that was about the coolest thing I got to do while I was here, ” Uhl said.
Uhl said he didn’t know yet who his replacement would be, but knew that the candidate list was short and the chosen candidate would be announced in the next few days.