Policy-makers, providers, families, youth, and advocates for improving services and supports for children with mental health challenges and their families are witnessing a significant transition in leadership this week at one of the most active statewide organizations focused on improving the health and well-being of children. Judith Meyers, Founding Chief Executive Officer of the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI), is stepping down from her duties as President & CEO at the end of September. Jeffrey Vanderploeg, CHDI's Vice President for Mental Health Initiatives, will become the next President and CEO effective October 1, 2017.
There has never been a CHDI without Judith Meyers. Meyers was the first employee of this (then) fledgling organization back in 1999 and came to her work with a laser-focused mission to improve the health and well-being of children and their families throughout the state of Connecticut. In 2002, CHDI became a subsidiary of the Children's Fund of Connecticut, a public charitable foundation founded in 1992 to champion sustainable improvements in children's health and mental health through innovative grantmaking. She became President and CEO of both CHDI and the Children's Fund of Connecticut in 2002. Today, CHDI has grown to over 30 employees and has quadrupled its annual operating budget.
Fantastic success, right? Absolutely. But it's the way Judith built the organization that deserves your attention. Judith does not do things alone. Early on, she recognized that collaboration and shared ownership were key if the organization was to thrive and make a difference in the state of Connecticut. The process she used, a process baked into her soul, should be a primer for any leader who wants to achieve success. Everything CHDI does incorporates research, policy, and practice, along with a healthy dose of community involvement. This interweaving of different disciplines and partners all with the ultimate goal of strengthening the health and well-being of children is key to the success of CHDI, and Judith deserves the credit for instilling that ethos from the very beginning.
"By bridging the worlds of research, policy, and practice, CHDI and the Children's Fund have helped improve children's health and mental health care in Connecticut. However we have not done this work alone. It has been a true privilege for me to work alongside our talented staff, our wonderfully supportive board, and our long list of dedicated partners to make this difference in the lives of children and families." Judith Meyers
Under Judith's leadership, CHDI has undertaken a variety of initiatives to help Connecticut strengthen its approach to improving the health and well-being of children and their families. CHDI has helped develop plans for implementing health, mental health, and early childhood systems statewide; advanced innovations in child health care services; and have encouraged mental health changes that have dramatically increased families' access to quality trauma-informed mental health care.
I have spent the majority of my career studying organizational approaches to implementing systems of care, and I am hardpressed to think of a better example of "how to do it" than the way it is done at CHDI. Trying to pull together a community collaborative? CHDI has information that will show you how they did it. Or maybe you want to figure out how to incorporate health consultation into your work with early learning programs. Sure, no problem. CHDI can help you with that. Wanting to promote a statewide effort to improve crisis response services? Yep, CHDI has been there, detailed their process and is more than willing to share their approach with you.Want to create an accessible website that connects parents to information and local resources; provides free training for health and child care professionals? Yep, CHDI has done that. Or maybe you want to develop robust early childhood trauma collaborative in your state. Sure, no problem, CHDI has done that too.
Folks, the list goes on and on. Key to all of the initiatives, reports, and products that come out of CHDI is a high adherence to the values and principles of a systems of care approach. And the root for ensuring this consistency and unwavering focus on the highest standards is leadership - the leadership of Judith Meyers.
I encourage you to read Judith Meyers article in the August 21, 2017, issue of Mental Health Weekly. In that article, Judith reflects on how children's mental health systems have changed in Connecticut over the past 18 years and the role CHDI has played to help nurture a stronger investment in mental health promotion beginning at birth, prevention, early intervention and trauma supports for children of all ages.
With eloquence, grace, and clarity, Judith articulates what it means to be a systems of care champion. Good on ya', Judith. Your contribution to children's mental health is unparalleled. You are leaving CHDI in the more than capable hands of Jeffrey Vanderploeg and the rest of the team at CHDI. Jeff will lead a team that will chart a course for the future built on the vision, values, and principles that you have carefully nurtured over the past eighteen years. Something tells me you wouldn't have it any other way.
Okay Network faithful, if you have a story to tell about Judith, the folks at CHDI have set up a portal where you can leave comments and congratulations.
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President & CEO
Children's Mental Health Network