For the past year, the Lunder Family Alliance has been providing social workers to help families of young adults experiencing serious mental health issues navigate the mental health system. The program also provides an employment specialist from the beginning of hospitalization to help a patient envision the future.

A Signs of Hope summer lawn party at the home of Susie and John Marshall in Cumberland Foreside raised $184,000 to support these programs.

“When people donate, they want to know it is going toward something other than the general budget,” said Creighton Taylor, a member of the board of trustees of Maine Behavioral Healthcare, which includes Spring Harbor Hospital. “When you have a loved one in crisis, the whole family is in crisis. … I think we are literally changing health-care delivery.”

“This organization is unique across the country, the way it has brought together community mental health and the support of a major health-care system,” said Steve Merz, chief executive officer of Maine Behavioral Healthcare since June. “For me, it was a challenge that I want to be part of. Folks nationally would talk about what’s happening here in Maine.”

“The patients can come in and feel like they’re being supported in terms of their interests with work and school,” said Lee D’Atillo, team leader for the Lunder Family Alliance. “And for families to have someone to call after discharge has made a huge impact.”

“If parents are supported, patients do better,” said Betsy Oakleaf, the program’s family navigator. Oakleaf has worked with over 120 families so far this year.

“Family engagement and family education and their involvement in care is crucial to their loved ones’ outcomes,” said Dr. Girard Robinson, chief of psychiatry at Maine Medical Center and Maine Behavioral Healthcare. “We’re very grateful to the Lunders for making this possible.”

“We believe in the work that is done at Spring Harbor,” said philanthropist Paula Lunder, at the party with her husband, Peter Lunder. “There are so many needs, but you do what you can to help.”

“The people here really recognize the importance of giving families the support they need to help their (adult) child through the recovery process,” said Mary Jane Krebs, president of Spring Harbor Hospital.

Having an employment specialist as part of the treatment plan, Krebs said, is a key component, enabling patients to envision futures that include returning to college or finding work. “It changes the trajectory of their lives,” she said.

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer from Scarborough. She can be contacted at [email protected]