As many of you know, we spend a lot of time learning about Napa County's nonprofit sector--we conduct about 200 site visits a year with agencies and programs to hear what they are doing, how they are doing it and what their needs are.
One of our favorite parts of those conversations is getting to know the leaders of local organizations. For instance, hearing about how they landed in the nonprofit sector, what they want the community to know about their work, and why they stick with it. So, we've decided to share highlights of those conversations with you, from time to time, in this newsletter.
We recently talked with Steven Boyd, who is Napa-Sonoma Clinical Director for Progress Foundation.
Progress Foundation has been helping adults and families with psychiatric disabilities since 1969. The agency's psychiatric residential treatment, case management and housing services are an alternative to institutional care. Progress works in San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma counties and has an annual budget of $22 million.
Steven is Clinical Director for Progress's Napa and Sonoma programs. He has bachelor's and master's degrees in social work, and also is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Progress Foundation's Napa programs serve 300 people each year.
NVCF: What do you mean when you say psychiatric disability?
Steven: An adult or a child that has a history of challenges with severe psychiatric issues, like fairly long bouts of depression, psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, mood disturbances like bipolar disorder. Most of us have short periods of sadness, or feel depressed or have anxiety occasionally. That's not who Progress serves. We serve people who struggle repeatedly, or over the long term, with serious psychiatric challenges.
NVCF: What's the biggest change you've seen in your client base in the last 30-plus years you've been working in Napa County?
Steven: There are several. The number of health issues is on the rise for our clients, who also are very low-income. Part of it is that our clients are aging, but another is that there is more access to health services, so our clients are bringing their health issues forward before they end up in the emergency room which is a good thing.
Another trend is the scourge of methamphetamine use--it's such a serious drug and a destructive addiction, and it creates a host of insidious problems for the individual and the community.
Housing for people with mental illness always has been a challenge, and continues to be. There's a lot of housing development, but not a lot that is affordable or accessible for low-income people in our community with mental illness. Housing is very expensive to develop, and there's a lot of politics around where to build affordable housing for disabled people.
NVCF: What inspired you to get into the mental health sector?
Steven: When I was a kid growing up in Indiana, my family had a lot of challenges--my father died when I was young, I had polio, my brother had diabetes--and we had a lot of people helping us, specifically social workers. I had an affinity for what they did and thought, "that's what I want to be."
NVCF: You started working as a caseworker at Napa County Health & Human Services in 1976, then joined the Napa Progress office in 1981 and became Clinical Director there in 1989. How do you stay motivated?
Steven: I believe in what Progress does. I've been an advocate for the poor and the disabled for a long time. It really strikes a chord in me that people need help. I have needed help at times--we all need help at some point in our lives--and that need is very fundamental, and human, and bonds us as people and as a community.
Most of the time, people have an advantage in that they have family that can help during challenging times. The clients Progress helps don't have families or, if they do, the family isn't capable of helping. And, when you add poverty into the mix it creates so many issues--an inability to provide childcare or housing, a lack of education that impacts someone's ability to get a job that pays the bills. Helping people through these challenges is very meaningful to me.
NVCF: What's the biggest change you've seen in the local nonprofit sector in the last three decades?
Steven: I think the nonprofits coming together in the 1990s to create the Napa Valley Coalition of Nonprofit Agencies is the biggest accomplishment. Forming the Coalition has meant that nonprofits work more collaboratively to offer a continuum of services in various areas of need.
NVCF: What's our nonprofit sector's biggest challenge right now?
Steven: There's a lot of personal economic pressure for many staff that work at local nonprofits--they can't afford to live here.
NVCF: Who is your social change inspiration?
Steven: My peers who continue to work in this sector and have a mission and value for what they do, even in difficult times. For instance, my boss, Steve Fields; Dan Corsello, who used to work in the local sector; Diana Short, who runs Community Resources for Children.
NVCF: What still surprises you?
Steven: That in spite of an individual's, or a family's, struggles with so many issues, they make it and change their lives for the better. If we were in a field where we never saw anybody change and there wasn't hope for change, we wouldn't be doing this work.