Mental Health Advocate Retires From the Clinic She Founded
Published September 2007
As a registered nurse, Connie Wilson, EdD, spent countless hours working with patients in the psychiatric emergency unit at University Hospital. She often saw patients come through the unit multiple times and became frustrated that they didn’t seem to be connecting to the services they needed.
“Mentally ill people can be difficult to work with because they often have additional problems, such as substance abuse, unstable or no housing or physical abuse,” says Wilson, a 36-year professor of nursing at UC.
Wilson decided to begin her own nurse-managed clinic, called the Health Resource Center (HRC) and located in the FreeStore Foodbank, to help homeless, mentally ill people who were repeatedly being treated in the psychiatric unit at local hospitals. She wanted to create a place for them to seek
multidisciplinary, comprehensive treatment and break the cycle of repeated emergency department visits.
Twelve years ago, Wilson took a year off from teaching to start the HRC, with support from the College of Nursing and the help of a graduate student. Physicians, psychiatrists and graduate students in multiple disciplines, including nursing, medicine, social work and counseling, now provide diagnostic assessments, counseling, psychotherapy and medication management to about 3,200 visitors a year.
“We don’t charge for our services,” says Wilson. “We save the city about $500,000 a year in medical costs for patient visits, and that would be if we did charge $60 for medical visits and $85 for mental health.”
Violette Seltzer, a registered nurse, who has worked with Wilson for the last 10 years, says she really goes out of her way for clients.
“Connie’s very empathetic with the mentally ill population and goes to any length necessary to get clients what they need.”
Wilson laughingly says she was “a young thing and full of energy when I started the HRC,” but teaching and working three to four days a week and during the summer at the HRC with no time off has left her fatigued.
An anonymous donation earlier this year allowed Wilson to retire from her position as CEO of the center, which will honor her at a retirement celebration featuring dinner, live entertainment and a silent auction Sept. 30 at the Six Acres Bed and Breakfast in College Hill.
“The donation allowed us to hire a new executive director and a development director, which is allowing the HRC to move from a founder/visionary stage to the next level of organizational maturity,” says Wilson.
Mary Elizabeth Earle, a graduate of the College of Nursing, is the new executive director. Earle has been working at the center for 10 years and “knows it well.”
Wilson says she’s “amazed at what can be done when people are committed to working with this population” and will remain involved with the HRC as president.
The HRC, which is certified by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services and accredited by the Council on Accrediting Rehabilitation Facilities, was instrumental in developing and launching two additional Cincinnati agencies that serve the indigent and homeless—Anthony House and the Center for Respite Care.
Anthony House, currently run by Lighthouse Youth Services, is a safe haven for street youth, and the Center for Respite Care, a 24-hour medical facility located in Avondale, also serves mentally and medically ill homeless people.
For more information on Wilson’s retirement celebration, call (513) 376-4518 or e-mail email@example.com.