Recovery center hoping to stay open despite temporary closure

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (WNDU) - Mental health patients in Benton Harbor are speaking out after learning their facility may close down.

MI-Journey Mental Health Recovery Center director Dee Smith tearfully hugs her patients with fear after Riverwood Center says it may cut their funding and shut facility down.

MI-Journey Mental Health Recovery Center director Dee Smith says the recovery center has been in and around the city of Benton Harbor for years helping those who need mental health services.

After a meeting on Tuesday with its main funding source, the Riverwood Center, Smith says officials told her they would no longer provide the funding and MI-Journey would permanently close at the end of this month.

“Riverwood has been our back for years, and the former directors have not made it easy on me to continue to get that funding. As of the 18th of this month, they told us they were going to shut us down as of the last day of this month,” Smith said.

However, after 16 News Now spoke to the Riverwood Center CEO Ric Compton on Thursday, Compton says the rumors of permanently closing down MI-Journey are not true.

“No, it is not officially closing, but we are asking – and we told them on Tuesday – that we need to work together to keep this program up and running,” Compton said.

In the coming weeks, Compton says he will be working with the Justice in Mental Health Organization, or JIMHO, as well as MI-Journey staff to come up with a plan for better programming, a solid contract and finalizing a budget.

“The organization has had some challenges with providing programming services to their consumers. It’s also had problem with having a contract with us and providing financial information that we need to make sure and secure their funding,” Compton said.

If you ask Smith what the problem will be if MI-Journey is forced to shut down, it’s this:

“They are not going to have the structure they have here. They don’t have the added value of family and that is what we are. We are family,” she said.

Patient Kristin White says when she first met Smith, she was suicidal. Now, her family at MI-Journey has given her a reason to live.

“I consider everyone in this building my family and they all mean the world to me,” White said.

Other patients like Valerie Tucker and Tabitha Herman echoed the same sentiment.

“We’re like family, and I don’t want this place to close,” Tucker said.

“Being here make me feel loved and cared about and not all alone," Herman followed.

In a last plea to make sure that none of her patients are left alone, Smith had one final message for the Riverwood Center:

“Please don’t close us down,” she said. “... Continue to fund us and give me the chance to show you that with the proper staffing and the proper help that you guys said you would help us with, we can make this place bigger and better.”

In order to help stay open, Smith says the Riverwood Center has asked for at least 600 letters from those in support of MI-Journey. She also says anyone who would like to donate or find out more information about MI-Journey can contact their offices by calling 269-944-9448.

If you would like to contact the Riverwood Center to voice your concern, they can be reached by calling 269-925-0585.

Compton says a meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday with JIMHO to discuss future plans for MI-Journey. According to Smith, however, MI-Journey have not been invited to that meeting.