In July of 2021, Tanya Lettman-Shue took over as President and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) ofJourney Mental Health Center. Tanya is not new to Journey. In fact, she will be celebrating 22 years at Journey this September! I sat down with Tanya recently to find out why she chose this field of work, what plans are on the horizon forJourney, and how she manages her own wellness.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I began my career in behavioral health in 1995 and provided direct services to consumers for over 20 years. I focused much of my career in the adult substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health arenas. I’ve had the privilege to work with most programs within Journey in some capacity. I feel fortunate to have started my career at Journey in a direct service position and been afforded the opportunity to grow and develop my skillset within the administrative arena. I would like every Journey employee to have those same opportunities to grow and develop their own path.
Did you always want to work in the mental health and SUD field?
In college, I thought I wanted to be a teacher. However, when I started working in the classroom, I could see the impact that having a lack of resources had on the students. Many of the kids experienced intergenerational poverty along with limited access to services. Parents were struggling and as are sult, you could see the weight this had on the children. I began focusing my career ambitions on the field of social work. I wanted to help people access basic services such as food, shelter, and healthcare. If you do not have access to these necessities your trajectory in life can be limited and it is hard to focus on improving your physical health and mental health.
What gets you out of bed each day? What is your passion?
I want people to have a better understanding of what it means to acknowledge and address mental health challenges and experience the hope and promise offered through recovery. Everyone has the capacity to take control of their own physical and mental wellbeing if given the opportunity to access resources. We have an obligation to the next generation to be more mental health literate and focus on the mind-body connection. Younger generations are no longer willing to buy into the stigma associated with mental health and are entering into more dialogues about their experiences. Those conversations are inspiring. I cherish hearing recovery stories. I know change is not only possible, but that recovery happens every day.
What goals do you have for Journey?
I want Journey to be a center of excellence. I want it to be a place where consumers receive comprehensive care that keeps them in the community while helping them identify what they want for themselves. I wantJourney to be an organization where employees are valued, equitably compensated, and our staff come to work every day because they enjoy the camaraderie of their peers along with a shared mission to serve our community.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Journey has been the best-kept secret in Madison for quite sometime. We are going to be challenged to raise our visibility and inform the community about the vital role that Journey plays. Along with our community partners, we need to ensure that individuals who are at risk receive the right level of care at the right time. There are too many people who are unfamiliar with the services thatJourney provides within the spectrum of community programs offered.
We will need to do advocacy with our state and local governments to adequately fund behavioral health services. Journey and other nonprofits in the community struggle with adequate reimbursement. We will need to flow avenues of fundraising to support our mission.
Another challenge facing employers is the significant workforce shortage and Journey is no exception. We are challenged to find innovative ways to grow our local talent. We need to spark an interest in the hearts and minds of the potential workforce and increase peoples’ understanding of the positive impact of working in the community behavioral health field.
How do you practice wellness when not at work?
I make a point to connect with nature because it brings me joy.I love the act of gardening. It is such a dynamic hobby that ebbs and flows throughout the seasons. Even the act of weeding is gratifying. I enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, and snowshoeing. I cherish the time I get to spend with my family and friends. I also appreciate my alone time where I can read, listen to podcasts, or watch a good show. I consider myself to be a lifelong learner and value the opportunity to see something through a new lens. I find it difficult to be still but am learning that there is value in stillness as well as inaction. I am not sure where that will lead, but I am open to the possibilities.
What do you suggest people do to manage their own wellness (what have you seen that works for people?)
I would encourage others to look objectively at their life.Wellness is an individualized practice. It looks different for each person and can look different at various times in our lives. It is easy to tune in and turn off in our world that can become so focused on electronics and outside expectations. We should “try on” activities and find out what feels right for ourselves? Too often wellness is limited to sleep, diet, and exercise. More important is to ask the question - What brings you joy? Then find time to schedule those activities into your life.