Hello NAMI friends,
My name is Kim Carter, and I am the proud new Executive Director of NAMI Geauga County! I am thrilled to have been chosen for this most important role. I am very excited to move to Northeast Ohio from Kentucky and I look forward to meeting as many of you in person as I am able. Please allow me to share a little about myself, to help us get to know one another.
I am a wife, mother, professional, and fellow NAMI family member. I have two grown sons, my oldest living in Chesterland with his wife and my amazing 3 yr. old twin grandbabies. I adore them and I’m thrilled to be living near them now. My youngest son is a 29-year-old single man currently in Washington, DC. More on him in a bit.
My professional background is wide and diverse. I have been so fortunate to experience success in a variety of arenas. My early career was in sales and marketing I learned that all the basics of being successful can be found in a sales career. A successful salesperson learns how to set and achieve goals on a timeline, he/she learns all about rejection and how to overcome it, he/she learns how to both sprint and marathon toward the finish line, how to build key critical relationships to achieve a common goal, and very importantly how to experience and use rejection for his/her benefit.
I took some time, approximately 15 years, to raise my two wonderful boys, and I would not trade that time or experience for all the money in the world! While raising a family, I also worked as many hours a week in volunteer capacities as one would work in compensated positions. I led an after-school children’s program for which I was awarded a Governor’s Hometown Award. I returned to school and earned my MBA. I began a women’s ministry called Real Joy Ministries, which is the jewel in my crown of achievement and for which I am the proudest. In the span of 2 ½ years, the ministry went from conception to reaching approximately 1800 women across the lower two-thirds of Illinois.
Once my children were in their teen years, I decided it was time to return to the compensated workforce. I found myself head of Human Resources in a State Psychiatric Hospital leading approximately 600 full-time employees. I loved working at the hospital and I found great purpose in my contributions there.
I have always had a dream to have my own business. In 2012 the right opportunity came my way and I seized it. I began a licensed/franchised magazine publishing business. I loved every aspect of owning my own business. I developed deep bonds with my business partners and earned respect from the business community. The most important goal I had for my business was to grow it into a “healthy” business, and that I did.
In my last role as Executive Director of an agency providing Residential and Day Training services to individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, I concluded that my heart really desires to spend the remaining years of my career leveraging all my background and experience to lifting others, specifically those often unheard and marginalized. I am passionate about social justice in all forms, but very specifically Mental Health. Why, you may ask. Let me share a little more about my lived experience to help you understand.
When I was 15 years old, I met a boy. He captured all my attention. After dating for 5 ½ years we married. We remained married for 23 years. Shortly after he and I began dating I met his family. His mother, formerly a Walton’s-like mother and provider to his family, a bank President, became ill. Her illness took her family through divorce, bankruptcy, and multiple hospitalizations. I became very accustomed and well versed in behaviors resulting from Bipolar Disorder. Years of watching her deteriorate were so very painful. We were powerless to help her. The things she said and did hurt the entire family and caused many lasting scars and wounds. I have many stories including her dwelling a cave through the wall and foundation of her house because she said my 6-week-old son was the Messiah and God told her to build a cave with which to put him.
Now, back to my youngest son I mentioned earlier. By the time he was 18 months old, I felt something was off, but I could not be sure what it was. I just knew that what I experienced with him was far more than just a strong-willed child. By the time he was 8 years old, we sought some advice from two brothers in our church that were psychologists. Having observed my son for a few years at that point, they advised us to seek some professional help and provided us with the name of a clinical child psychologist. It only took a visit or two for that doctor to mention child onset bipolar disorder. The next several months were wrought with so much stress, uncertainty, and confusion on our part. Although the psychologist believed our son had bipolar disorder, my son’s psychiatrist in the same practice did not agree. We spent several terrifying months experiencing several other diagnoses and medication changes. Things went from bad to worse in our household. Eventually, the psychiatrist relented and agreed to try treating for bipolar disorder. Within two weeks we saw a noticeable difference in his behavior, for the better. We knew we were on the right track.
From his 9th year of life, being diagnosed, until age 21, we experienced many ups and downs as we attempted to navigate and manage hospitalizations, medication and treatment changes, run-ins with law enforcement, and ultimately a decision he made to go off all his medications. Being an adult and his own guardian, we found ourselves powerless once again to help someone we loved so much get the help they needed. He is now 29 years old and is in his 8th year of living homeless. He has been homeless all over the United States. He has been from the north to the south, from the east to the west, all homeless. He has encountered jail many times. The last time he was in Lexington, KY he experienced jail every 11.7 days over the course of several months. Currently, he is in Washington DC. I am profoundly grateful every time I hear from him. At least I know he is still alive. His bipolar disorder has decomposed into schizoaffective disorder. I continually pray for his health and well-being.
I do more than pray when it comes to being an activist for mental health reform. I have worked closely with NAMI Lexington (Kentucky) over the years. I have been involved in creating Tim’s Law, an alternative to in-patient hospitalization. I dream of a day that my work and effort can bring a true and lasting change to help those like my son. I pray it comes while he is still living.
What can you expect from me in the coming months? Change is often difficult, so in the beginning, I will not be seeking to change anything unless there is an urgent need to do so. The first thing I want to do is listen and learn. I want to actively listen to all stakeholders, internal and external. Next, I want to seek to understand, before I am understood. I want to assimilate all I gained from listening and learning. Then I would like to begin the work on a short-term and long-term strategic plan. This would be a collaborative effort with the Board. While I am certainly capable of bringing a vision, I would not see it beneficial to do alone. To be done well, all voices need to be heard and included. Only after a strategic plan is developed does the real fun of executing the plan begin. I use the word “fun” intentionally. I look forward to doing the work together. Challenging, yes, of course, the work will be challenging. But achieving goals and seeing good things happen is so much fun, gratifying, and fulfilling. I can see it! Can you?
It is my honor to join NAMI Geauga County as a coworker in the very important fight for all lives that matter!
In service together,