Julie Kramp talks about mental health and appreciating what life gives us
It’s been one year since Julie Kramp was named executive director of The Center for Counseling and Consultation, a four-county community mental health service based in Great Bend. She spoke to 530 News recently about the life events that brought her to The Center, and of the need for new perceptions on mental health. “When I came to interview here and work at The Center, I was worried about people seeing my car here,” Kramp said. “Now I’m proud to be here. The perception is, ‘obviously there’s a problem,’ but maybe it should be, ‘obviously that person’s strong enough to ask for help.’ Wouldn’t that be a better way to look at it?”
The path to The Center
While the long-time Barton County resident was well known to many, including some of the board members who eventually hired her, Kramp didn’t get the job because of who she knew. Before ever getting an interview in Barton County, she submitted her resume to a human resources firm in Wichita which screened all applicants.
That resume included an associate degree from Barton Community College and a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and leadership from Friends University.
She later spent several years working at Barton, eventually becoming the executive director for Workforce Training and Economic Development.
“The natural gas program was one of the things I developed while I was there,” Kramp said. As the Midwest Utility and Pipeline Training Center became a reality, her department worked with the Kansas Board of Regents to get a degree program, and with experts in the industry to get a curriculum in place. She also worked with the college’s Automotive Department, with Case-New Holland and with the Early Childhood Program.
“Which is ironic because when I went to Barton, way back in the day, the Early Childhood Program was the program I went through,” she said. Kramp then went to work for Share and Care Preschool and its director, Carole Harris. She he also worked at Gibson Hallmark with Melba Haines. Her her first administrative job was as director of Central Kansas CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). “It was a part-time job I worked at like a full-time job,” she said.
Kramp went on to work at Barton Community College for 17 years, but decided to choose a different path after a life-changing event where she was unable to work.
“I lost my eyesight, temporarily,” she said. “I have had a progressive degenerative eye disease since I was 24 years old, and it got worse. I got a lot of my vision back, but during that time I had a lot of sitting around that I had to do.
“And I just thought: I don’t know that I want this to be my last career.
“I want to do something that helps people. I want to do something that has a mission.” — Julie Kramp
That is how Kramp made the decision to become executive director of Mosaic in Ellsworth.
“Mosaic is a faith based organization that provides supports for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Kramp said. Ellsworth is the smallest of six Mosaic center in Kansas; the larger ones serve all ages, she noted.
Mosaic’s strong mission appealed to her.
“We believe that every individual is a person of worth. Together Mosaic staff members, volunteers and the people we support work as partners,” she said. She can still recite the organization’s mission statement: Embracing God’s call to serve in the world, Mosaic advocates for people with intellectual disabilities and provides opportunities for them to enjoy a full life.
“I remember it because we lived it,” Kramp said. “I mean, we ate, drank, breathed that mission. We provided 24/7 support for people. Some were in wheelchairs or were non-verbal, but they wanted to have that fullness of life, that quality of life that a lot of people take for granted. Some people are just going to get up in the morning, roll out of bed, put on their clothes and complain about their job — but we had people that couldn’t even roll out of bed. So to be able to provide support so they could be warm and safe and comfortable and surrounded by people who care about them, and help them achieve their goals — that was pretty cool.”
Fullness of life
In October, five weeks before this interview, Kramp experienced another life-changing event with the death of her father, former Great Bend Tribune Publisher Robert “Bob” Werner. He was 82.
Since then, the words “fullness of life” have continued to resonate, and Kramp is reminded that the mission at The Center also involves helping others find it.
“When we explained our mission statement (at Mosaic) we’d tell people that ‘fullness of life’ doesn’t mean that every day is a circus and a carnival and fun times, but that fullness of life includes every emotion that you experience, including those sad times and including loss and including happy times with friends.”
Progress in mental health
At The Center, a focus group made up of clients recently answered questions about their desires for the future of mental health services in the community.
• When you think about the future of mental health services in your county, what concerns you?
• What is one thing or the most important thing that could be done to increase community awareness?
• What are the facilitators or barriers toward making progress?
One barrier is society’s attitude toward mental health patients. A member of the focus group wrote, “It’s hard to be society-friendly when they’re not friendly towards us. When they don’t see me, but see the mental illness.”
Another client described the heartache of “thinking that I’m not a productive member of society.”
But if the biggest challenge is a lack of awareness, the way to improve is to find more people who are willing to speak out.
Each May, The Center for Counseling and Consultation celebrates Mental Health Awareness Month. Douglas McNett, Kramp’s predecessor as The Center’s director from 2015 to 2016, used the occasion to explain that no one should feel ashamed to seek assistance for mental health conditions. After all, mental health is essential to everyone’s overall well-being. As all Americans experience times of difficulty and stress, it is important to practice prevention as an effective way to reduce the burden of mental health conditions.
“Mental health conditions are real and prevalent,” McNett said. “With early and effective treatment, those individuals with mental health conditions can recover and lead full, productive lives.”
Every month is a good month to increase awareness of mental health and the available services. Approximately one in five adults in the United States — 43.8 million — experiences mental illness in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. December brings its own special forms of stress, including traveling, holiday parties, cooking and shopping. December has been named National Stress-Free Family Holidays Month to increase awareness of the problems that stress can cause during the holiday season.
There are many resources available in communities and people don’t always know about them.
The Center for Counseling and Consultation is located at 5815 Broadway Ave., Great Bend. Call 620-792-2544 or 800-875-2544. Or learn more online at www.thecentergb.org.
Julie Kramp at The Center for Counseling and Consultation said there’s no reason to take mental health for granted.
“We talk about quitting smoking or losing weight or making resolutions to get stronger but we don’t usually talk about making a resolution to take care of our mental health,” she said.
The Center offers free, anonymous screenings at Mental Health Kiosks located throughout its four-county area (Barton, Pawnee, Stafford and Rice). Look for the kiosks at county health departments or the Great Bend Public Library or Student Union at Barton Community College.
Or, take this survey on your computer or mobile device: http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/ccc9