BARTOW BIO — Wainscott finds her passion in the mental health field
by Marie Nesmith
Aug 14, 2011 | 3910 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cynthia Wainscott relaxes in her daughter’s greatroom, which overlooks Lake Allatoona. She says, “A mentally healthy life is enhanced by keeping stress in check and maintaining a healthy balance between work and play.”
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Cynthia Wainscott relaxes in her daughter’s greatroom, which overlooks Lake Allatoona. She says, “A mentally healthy life is enhanced by keeping stress in check and maintaining a healthy balance between work and play.” SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
A retired mental health educator and advocate, Cynthia Wainscott continues to volunteer for a number of local, state and national organizations. Through her efforts, she is seeking to identify and implement programs and services to help individuals living with mental illness thrive.

With the closure of the Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital in Rome, Wainscott believes the mental health system is modernizing -- transitioning from placing people in institutions to assisting people in the community. Among other offerings, she said the opening of Bartow County's Peer Support, Wellness and Respite Center is a step in the right direction.

Located at 201 N. Erwin St. in Cartersville, the Peer Support, Wellness and Respite Center is one of three existing centers in the state, the other peer-run facilities being in Decatur and Cleveland. Bartow's offering is operated by the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network and funded through a contract with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Along with providing peer support and wellness activities, the center also provides a complimentary respite program. The services are for people 18 and older, who accept that they have a mental health diagnosis and want to move forward in their recovery.

Name: Cynthia Wainscott

Age: 68

Occupation: I am retired from a 20-year career as a mental health educator and advocate. I continue to be active in that work as a volunteer at the local, state and national level.

* Member of the Bartow Health Access board of directors, and active in their Behavioral and Emotional Health Resources Steering Committee.

* President of the local affiliate of Mental Health America (next meeting will be Sept. 21, 5 p.m., at the old Cherokee Avenue School); on the board of Georgia's statewide Mental Health America affiliate; and vice president for Public Policy of the national organization

* Board member for Georgia Community Trust

* Member of Georgia's Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council

* Member of Substance Abuse, Mental Health Services Administration's National Advisory Council.

City of residence: Emerson

Family: Married to retired Navy light attack pilot, Bob Wainscott, for 49 years and counting. We are still having fun. Two daughters:

* Tara Norman, who is the reason we live in Bartow County -- she and her husband, Ray, moved their architecture firm, Norman and Associates, here in 2004 and we came along. Two of their daughters have graduated from Woodland High School and a third is a sophomore there now.

* Elizabeth Cronk, who followed in her father's footsteps -- after graduation from Annapolis as one of the early women there, she became a Navy jet pilot. She is retired now and lives in Hawaii with her husband, an Air Force officer, and their son.

Education: Attended University of Kentucky, 1960 to 1962; graduated from Metropolitan State University (Minneapolis, Minn.), BA, 1989.

What drew you to work/volunteer in the field of mental health and how has your work in this field evolved?

A: As I was growing up in the 40s and 50s there were people in my family, as there are in virtually all families, struggling with mental illnesses. Much less was known then about how to help, and I witnessed a lot of suffering and lost potential. During the Decade of the Brain, 1980-1990, scientists discovered more about the human mind than had been learned in all the rest of human history combined.

In the midst of the resulting explosion of knowledge about treatments, my mother participated in a clinical trial of one of the new medicines for depression. Describing how it worked for her, she said it was as if "the dark veil" had been lifted. The '90s brought similar advances in the treatment of schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, ADHD  and more. But even though one in four of us will have a mental illness, it is a sad fact that less than half of the people affected get any treatment at all. For the lucky ones who do get help, there is an average of 10 years between first symptoms and first treatment. I am very motivated to see this change.

Almost two decades ago I had the opportunity to direct a pilot site for the National Institute of Mental Health's first public education campaign on a mental illness -- Depression: Awareness, Recognition and Treatment. That experience totally hooked me on mental health education and advocacy as I witnessed its potential to improve the health of people and communities.

Does the mental health system need to be modernized? If so, why? What was lacking in the traditional forms of services/treatment?

A: For generations it has focused on crisis services and custodial care in expensive institutions. This is no longer appropriate because today people with mental illnesses can live productive, rewarding lives in the community when they have access to the treatments and supports they need. We need to identify and treat illnesses early to avoid crisis. We must provide what people need to recover and live successful lives in their communities.

What services or programs do we need in Bartow County to help modernize the system?

A: Last year Georgia entered into a Settlement Agreement that set aside a federal Department of Justice lawsuit. The agreement requires the expansion of the community services that will support a recovery-focused system: case management, supported housing, assertive community treatment teams, crisis stabilization units, community hospital beds, mobile crisis teams, community support teams. With the closure of the hospital in Rome, the Department of Behavioral Health and its staff in Region One are working hard to assure that these services are in place here so people do not fall through the cracks. Much has to happen in the community, too.

The Bartow Health Access survey identified better referral resources as a pressing need here. A work group is busy developing a crisis algorithm to guide crisis response in our county. A directory of the new community services is being compiled and will be distributed to social service agencies and pubic safety officials next month. Forty people recently completed 12 hours of training and were certified as Mental Health First Aiders. We are working with the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network to secure peer mentors to act as navigators and advocates for people here.

Is Bartow County's Peer Support, Wellness and Respite Center a step in the right direction? If so, why? Where would you like to see Bartow's mental health services in 10 or 20 years?

A: Mental health is a public health issue and our system should be built on a public health model. It should include a full continuum of care: from prevention and early intervention, to readily accessible treatment and supports, to crisis services when needed, and recovery-focus programs like Bartow County's new Peer Support, Wellness and Respite Center. A broad group of stakeholders worked hard to get one of only two such state-of-the-art centers established in Georgia this year.

What do you enjoy most about being a mental health advocate?

A: The mental health advocacy community is full of generous, hard-working and compassionate people who care deeply about others and about their communities. It is a joy to work with them. And when we have a "win" like the Department of Justice Settlement Agreement which is improving our system, now that is sweet.

What is your greatest professional and/or personal achievement?

A: Being nominated by President G.W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate to serve on the National Council on Disability.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

A: Tenacious, patriotic, blessed

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

A: I once won a 4-H hog calling contest (Greenville, Ind., circa 1954)

What do you like to do in your spare time (hobbies)?

A: I am a rock hound. I have boxes of rocks. I love gardening with my buddies in the Cartersville Grand Gardeners Club, and Bob and I have great fun spending time with our wonderful neighbors in Waterside.

What is your favorite quote?

A: "Never, never, never give up." -- Winston Churchill