AVON — Letting Lorain County residents know there is a place to seek help for mental health issues, where the door is always open, was the driving force behind The Nord Center’s fundraiser Friday night at the Emerald Event Center.
The Nord Center Executive Director Eric Morse said the event — the first of its kind — was to let residents know there are places in Lorain County that can and will offer help for comprehensive behavioral and mental health services to children, adolescents and adults.
“If people need help, they know they can get help and they don’t need to suffer,” Morse said Friday night.
During the event, Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera was awarded the Key to Hope Award for achievements in prevention and treatment of mental illness and WKYC-TV’s Hollie Strano accepted the Open Door Award for Achievement in Advocacy.
Rivera said he was accepting the award on behalf of the “real heroes who wear the uniform.”
Rivera said as a police officer, being compassionate and caring is part of the job.
“Police officers provide a valuable service to those callers and deal with people in crisis,” Rivera said.
Rivera said Lorain County is blessed to have agencies available to help people. But it wasn’t always that way.
When Rivera first joined the police force, it was right after the release of individuals from institutional care into the community.
“When I started (as an officer) in 1971, people were being sent from hospital beds, to jail, to coffins,” he said. “Thank God we have The Nord Center, because it’s critical to have resources.”
Rivera said it’s important for people to know that they have options in Lorain County and that they don’t have to fight alone.
“There are places to go for help, rather than a jail cell,” Rivera said.
Those resources saved Strano’s life, she said.
In February, Strano shared with viewers that she was struggling with anxiety and how mental health counseling saved her life.
“I did a story about it and it was one of the scariest things I have ever done in my career because I was worried if someone was going to judge me, but what I found is that the empowerment of people feeling that they are not alone is what mattered,” she said. “There is still such a stigma attached to (mental health), so anything we can do to spread awareness is a step in the right direction.”