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Nord Center shows off spectrum of services


LORAIN — The Nord Center is where severely mentally ill people are treated, but that’s only part of the center’s mission.

Center staff held an open house Monday at their main office at 6140 S. Broadway to tell the rest of the story and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. Amy Denger, center CEO, said many clients aren’t severely mentally ill, but suffer from addiction, anxiety or depression.

The problems may be brought on by stress from divorce, job loss or the illness or death of a relative. Despite needing help, Denger said many people are afraid to seek it for fear of being labeled.

“Everybody needs help sometimes,” she said. “There’s no shame in asking for it.”

While the center wants people in need to seek help, providing it is challenging. Decades of states de-institutionalizing the mentally ill and funding cuts in recent years have increased pressure on groups like the center.

The number of psychiatric hospital beds in Ohio decreased 14 percent from 50,509 in 2005 to 43,318 in 2010, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center. The ratio of 14 beds per 100,000 people in 2010 was the same ratio as in 1850.

Nationally, states cut $1.6 billion in money for mental health treatment between 2009 and 2012, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Ohio’s spending decreased from nearly $512 million in 2009 to nearly $486 million in 2012, a 5 percent drop.

Denger said improved medication has helped the center deal with a lack of beds. The center tries to be innovative, such as having psychiatrists meet with patients through video links rather than in person.

Meanwhile, the center tries to keep unemployed clients from needing to be committed by finding them and helping them keep jobs. Amy Espinoza Gonzalez, director of vocational and residential services, said she tells employers that working is the optimal form of recovery.

“When folks are working, they have less hospitalizations,” she said. “They are contributing back to society. They’re paying taxes.”

At least 50 people attended the open house, which Denger said may become an annual event. Among them was Michelle Mannion, a registered nurse at the mental health unit at University Hospitals Elyria Medical Center.

Mannion said the unit treats between 1,500 and 2,500 patients per year and many are referred to Nord because of the comprehensive services it offers.

“They really seem to do a good followup with the patients and the community,” she said. “What we really need for mental health patients is the ongoing care they need once they leave the crisis phase of it.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or

Mental Help

  • The Nord Center was founded in 1948 and was known as the Lorain County Mental Health Association. In 1970, it was named after Walter Nord, founder of the Nordson Corp., an industrial coatings equipment company and a strong supporter of mental health initiatives.
  • The center has a $14 million annual budget, 238 employees and serves about 8,000 clients and their families annually.
  • The center receives $6.7 million annually from the Lorain County Mental Health Board from the $10.9 million raised yearly from two five-year property tax levies.
  • Besides mental health treatment, the center finds jobs for the mentally ill, rehabilitates drug addicts, runs a suicide-prevention hotline and treats sexually abused children and adult rape victims.
  • The center runs nine group homes with 122 beds for clients around Lorain County.

SOURCES: The Nord Center, Lorain County Mental Health Board

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