Mental Health America of Augusta hires new executive director
The Staunton-based Mental Health America of Augusta has hired Bruce Blair as its new executive director.
Blair began his work with the nonprofit organization on Nov. 2.
“Bruce brings a strong career in development to our organization,” said Melissa Sheets, president of the MHA affiliate. “He is passionate about impacting the lives of others.”
Blair has worked in the non-profit section with the Staunton-Augusta YMCA and the First Tee organization. He also previously served in a leadership role with Chick-fil-A. He has a master’s degree from James Madison University and is currently pursuing an additional master of susiness administration degree.
“Mental Health America – Augusta is needed now more than ever in our community,” Blair said. “I hope I can create rich and meaningful partnerships, resources, and programming for those in need.”
Like many organizations, MHA-A had to put all major fundraisers on hold, including its 5K, golf tournament, and annual Boots ‘n Brews event.
Despite a major hit to funding, MHA-A has continued to answer the call for help in the Greater Augusta community.
“I received a phone call from a grandfather of a middle school boy who was experiencing depression,” Blair said. “I’m glad we were there to answer the call and provide him with the resources and information he needed.”
Recent statistics show that anxiety and depression have increased more than 93 percent in 2020 in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MHA-A has responded by providing access to 325 individual mental health screenings. This is often the first step to building a healthier life. More than 55 percent of those screened were under the age of 21.
Blair is working with the board to raise $20,000 in critical funds by end of the year. He is developing a new website that highlights the services of MHA-A and includes a directory to available resources for addiction and other mental health needs. Blair is also preparing a 2021 calendar to include a mental health conference, suicide prevention training, and a return to fundraising events to allow MHA-A to do even more in the coming years.
“I look forward to working to meet the needs of our community,” Blair said. “It is my hope that the community reaches out to share thoughts on ideas on how MHA-A can best serve our community.”