On Thursday, November 20th, Lynn Community Health Center honored Governor and Mrs. Michael Dukakis as “Visionaries in Healthcare” and health center patient Minnie Oji Holloway as a “Shining Star” at its annual “Wisdom to Wellness” Gala.
The Dukakises were honored as champions for access to healthcare, especially mental health and addiction services, as both public officials and private citizens. “We are all very indebted to them for their courage to publicly share their personal experiences, opening up a national dialogue about how these issues touch all of us regardless of race, class, economic status, or social position,” said Lori Abrams Berry in her introduction, who also noted that Governor Dukakis in 1987 took on the challenge of making Massachusetts the first state in the nation to provide universal health coverage.
Kitty Dukakis gave the keynote address, sharing her personal battle with debilitating clinical depression, and how her life was changed through electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). “For 17 years I had recurring bouts of depression every 8 or 9 months. They were brutal, lasting three to four months each time, and nothing brought relief,” she said. “Finally, 18 years ago we decided to try ECT therapy, and it truly changed my life.” She explained that she did not want to minimize the powerful effect that talk therapy and medication can have on those who experience clinical depression, but that in some cases not everyone responds to these methods. “I was one of those,” she said. “I want to raise awareness of this treatment, because there are thousands like me who are suffering.”
The health center has deep roots in treatment of mental health issues, having begun as a small mental health clinic in 1971. “Over the years we have developed an innovative method of integrated care, where primary care doctors and behavioral health clinicians work together, with the patient as a key member of a coordinated team,” said Berry. She invited one such team to the podium to share their story.
Health center patient Minnie Oji Holloway brought the audience to its feet as she told how she has overcome homelessness, addiction, and complex medical issues. Flanked by her doctor Sharlene Selvaratnam and her therapist Debra Newborg, she talked about how difficult it was to seek help, but she is so glad she did.
“I met Debra first,” she said. “She helped me open up and talk about everything, and when it came to the surface we looked at it together. She helped me let it all go and move forward.” In addition to working with Dr. Newborg, PsyD, she had a lot of medical issues. “I was so happy to meet Dr. Sharlene, MD, who helps me with all of them. She never gives up on me. I love the fact that she and Debra work together. They tell me I’m doing wonderful and I am! I just keep getting better! Five years ago I was in a dark room and didn’t know how to get out but today life is good!”
More than 200 people attended the event. Lead sponsors were Cambridge Savings Bank, Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, Eaton Apothecary, and Partners Healthcare.