DeKalb County Resident Donates $24,000 to Support Behavioral Health Program for Area Youth

City of Decatur resident Meredith McCoyd is a third generation DeKalb County native, who learned at an early age about giving back to the community. When she was just 15 years old, her mother had her volunteer with the Winn Way Clinic – which is a part of the DeKalb Community Service Board (CSB). Fast forward to 2016, McCoyd continues to give back to the organization.

For the past three years McCoyd has served on the Board of Directors for DeKalb CSB. Recently she donated $24,000 to assist in funding a new innovative program that the organization has rolled out. It is called the Prevention and Early Intervention Program (PEIP), which aims to assess, engage, support and treat young adults that are in the early stages of schizophrenia.

“PEIP is a specialized, community-based treatment program for young people who are experiencing their first episode of psychosis,” says Sarah Pakenham, the Director for PEIP.  “By intervening early, the trajectory of the illness is potentially disrupted and the chances of recovery are amplified.”

The program uses a social media platform to connect youth and their families. It also helps to build relationships and create a meaningful social support network.

“The emphasis on early intervention with youth and young adults is what excites me the most,” Pakenham explains. “By intervening during a critical time in the emergence of this devastating illness, young people have a better chance at meeting their goals academically, vocationally, and socially. I am thrilled to be a part of this innovative program that is informed by strong research and guided by the resolute hope that recovery is possible.”

Although McCoyd has never been personally touched by mental illness, it was seeing the clients and hearing their stories of recovery that made her want to get involved. She learned about DeKalb CSB after college, when she began working in pharmaceutical sales. It was at that time that she began calling around to mental health centers, and during the calls she was able to learn a lot about the organizations and mental illness. The knowledge she learned was motivation enough to guide her in giving back.

“I feel like if you have the means it’s your social responsibility to give back but also because it’s a great program and has the potential to change the way that we treat schizophrenia and hopefully intervene earlier.”

Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects nearly 1-percent of Americans. The onset of the illness usually begins revealing itself between the ages of 16-30. It does not discriminate, affecting people regardless of their sex, culture, race, educational background, and socioeconomic status.

“Meredith McCoyd’s gift will allow us to design targeted educational tools that will help clients, family members and their doctors to better understand this illness and the promise of early intervention,” said DeKalb CSB CEO Joseph Bona, MD.  “Meredith’s support makes a real difference in the lives of young people,” Dr. Bona added.

McCoyd hopes that her donation will help in equipping those who suffer from mental illness, such as schizophrenia. “I feel like no one chooses to have it. It’s a disease, like having cancer. But you have no control over your behavior without help, which is terrible. This program will target youth at a critical time in their life.”

She adds, “Funding will go to some of the educational offerings associated with the program.  This was very compelling to me because it means that we’re going into the schools and focusing on early intervention. Raising awareness and education is a huge part of it.  It effects everyone whether we know it or not.”

On Saturday, March 19th, DeKalb CSB will host the Psychosis Early Intervention Conference at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. This full-day specialty conference will have some of the top researchers in the county speaking on the latest scientific findings in the developing area of early schizophrenia and psychosis.  To find out more about the conference visit https://dekcsb.org/get-involved/psychosis-early-intervention-conference/. To learn more about the Prevention and Early Intervention Program, visit http://georgiapeip.org.

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