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County’s Director of Community Mental Hygiene Services to retire

Patricia Brinkman

MAYVILLE — Patricia Brinkman, county director of community mental hygiene services, is retiring.

Brinkman has led the department since 2000. She leaves the department in a position where it is largely funded through state and federal grants. Brinkman has worked to champion mental health in the community with a focus to increase the department’s service capacity.

Under Brinkman, the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene has expanded its reach into the community. A system of care has been put in place to effectively provide an array of community-based services and supports. Treatment and service hours available in mental health and chemical dependency clinics have expanded.

Brinkman also brought the department into partnerships that addressed needs in less visible ways, particularly in school systems from elementary to the local colleges. Department staff and many area schools have established suicide awareness and prevention initiatives and some school districts have been trained in the strength-based approach to guiding behavior and creating a positive culture that supports appropriate behavior, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.

Brinkman is a former officer of the Conference of Mental Hygiene Directors, a founding member of the New York State Campaign for Behavioral Healthcare Transformation, has served as chair of the New York Success Advisory Council and as co-chair of the board of directors of the NY Care Coordination Program. Brinkman also served on the Chautauqua County Long Term Care Council, a position appointed by the county executive.

“There are some people you meet who you just know they are doing what they love, and Pat is one of those people,” said County Executive PJ Wendel. “The mental health field is demanding work, often with little reward and yet Ms. Brinkman never wavered from the challenge. Her work has set a strong course for this county in the field of mental health going forward. While I will miss coordinating with her on the many challenges we currently face in the community, I wish her the best in retirement and thank her for her dedicated service to Chautauqua County.”

By increasing revenue generated by the Mental Health Department clinics and obtaining state and federal funding through grants, the department has been able to expand its services over the years. Most notably, the department received two awards totaling $13 million from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHSA) to transform, expand and enhance the child serving system in thee county. Only 23 other grants were awarded nationwide.

Brinkman also made countless trips to Albany and Washington.

“Seeking assistance is a sign of strength not weakness,” was a motto she often voiced.

Some partners Brinkman’s department has collaborated with to identify, address and prioritize the behavioral health needs of our communities are UPMC-Chautauqua, the State University at Fredonia and the Mental Health Association.

“Only through being creative and collaborative have we been able to tackle the challenges our community has faced throughout the years,” said Brinkman. “It has been important to work closely with community-based partners along the way. Of course, I have been blessed to guide some of the finest and most talented professionals in behavioral health. I know that they will continue to build on the work already done. It was always, and will always be, about a better Chautauqua County for everyone.”

Brinkman’s last day was Friday. She plans to remain a Chautauqua County resident and focus more time on her husband and family, as well as write, consider volunteer activities and traveling when it is safe to do so.

Wendel has begun the process of finding a new department director.

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