Rosalynn Carter headlines Pine Rest centennial event

October 4, 2010
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One hundred years ago, Comet Halley was visible from Earth, freight was flown in an airplane for the first time and Henry Ford sold 10,000 cars. That was the same year a small group of concerned citizens and ministers purchased a farm in Cutlerville for the Christian Psychopathic Hospital.

Today, that organization is known as Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services and has a 220-acre campus as well as 18 outpatient clinics and offices in Michigan and Iowa. The organization served more than 300,000 people with outpatient, inpatient and home health care services in fiscal 2009.

Pine Rest is celebrating its centennial anniversary — as well as the 50th anniversary of the Pine Rest Foundation — with an Oct. 26 event that will feature former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who has been an advocate for mental health services and research since 1970. "Within Our Reach: Ending the Mental Health Crisis," Carter's fifth book, was published earlier this year.

The event at DeVos Place begins at 5:30 p.m. with a reception, followed by the program and dinner at 7 p.m. Individual tickets are $150 apiece, and sponsorships are available. Call 281-6390 for more information.

"One of the things Rosalynn Carter has done through her advocacy is really bring the issue of mental illness to the forefront of public awareness," said Pine Rest President and CEO Mark Eastburg. "Sometimes mental illness is stigmatized and not discussed. Through her works of advocacy, she has brought it to the forefront. This is an issue that touches all of us. Not many families have escaped some kind of contact with mental illness or other kinds of behavioral health needs."

Pine Rest was established at a time when compassionate care for the mentally ill was being emphasized, despite a lack of sophisticated tools to address it, Eastburg said. The founders were moved when a member of the community sought care at a state-run public hospital and was denied access to his prayer book, he said.

"There was the sense of the community in West Michigan looking for alternatives to the state system," Eastburg explained, particularly where faith could be respected.

"Back in 1910, there weren't sophisticated treatments," he said. "Rest, work, wholesome food: That's why the first building at Pine Rest was a farmhouse. It was the Cutler farmhouse. The patients worked on the farm, ate the fruits of their labor and rested. They got out of the normal day to day stresses. There was no medication at the time, no therapies."

But from the start, Pine Rest has been committed to professional growth, and today, patients have many more options in medication and therapy, he said.

Pine Rest employs more than 35 psychiatrists and doctors, more than 35 fully licensed psychologists, more than 40 limited-license psychologists, more than 115 master's-level social workers, 15 physician assistants and nurse practitioners, as well as 10 chaplains.

"Even since I've been here, for 20 years, medication options have expanded exponentially in terms of number, effectiveness, reduction of side effects," he said, predicting that personalized medicine will become important in treating mental illness. New modes of therapy also are accelerating and helping people learn to cope with their symptoms.

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