A single access point for integrated services for individuals and families experiencing a mental health-related crisis has been a vision 50 years in the making for Nancy Jeffrey.
As the Franklin County Crisis Care Center moves closer to fruition to become the centralized, preferred destination for mental health and addiction crisis care in central Ohio, the Jeffrey family has made a $2 million commitment to the capital campaign in memory of parents Anne “Nancy” Kittredge Jeffrey and Robert H. “Tad” Jeffrey.
“This was the number one undone thing in central Ohio in our mom’s estimation. I think she believed with all her heart that when you are experiencing a mental health crisis, the community shouldn’t ask you to figure out the system, what door to knock on, at what time and with what insurance,” said daughter Anne Jeffrey Wright.
The late Nancy Jeffrey was a long-time advocate and trailblazer for accessible community-based mental health services. As a volunteer at the former Columbus State Hospital in the early 1960s, she saw firsthand the impact deinstitutionalization was having on the men she worked with and how well-meaning public policy was leaving the most vulnerable in the community with little support. As a result, Nancy soon began volunteering her time to build a community mental health network.
“My first memory of her as an active volunteer was for Bells for Mental Health,” Anne said. The group got its name from the bell that had become a symbol of hope for mental health. The organization was modeled after the TWIGS women’s groups that supported what is now Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Nancy enlisted her family in annual fundraising drives selling crockeries of cheese that were stored and readied for distribution in their garage.
During this time, Nancy helped plant the seeds for what would eventually become the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County. According to ADAMH archives, Nancy attended the organizational meeting of the Franklin County Mental Health and Retardation Board on Feb. 15, 1968. In 1971, she chaired the committee that passed Columbus’ first mental health levy. Nancy was a co-founder of the Community Shelter Board and was the first woman to serve as campaign leader and board chair of United Way of Central Ohio.
Her husband Tad, Columbus business leader and president of The Jeffrey Company, was equally involved in the health of the community. “One of his deepest commitments was to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where he served in many roles including board chair throughout his life. From those experiences as a volunteer leader, he witnessed and learned about children’s mental health needs,” Anne said.
“Mom was a board member at Harding Hospital at the same time he served on what was then the Children’s Hospital’s board and they would contrast their experiences. Together, they saw a gap in mental healthcare during the transition of young adults from teens to early twenties, a frequent period when psychiatric disorders may become evident,” she added. Their solution was to establish a joint fellowship between The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Harding Hospital and Nationwide Children’s Hospital that focused on adolescent psychiatry, to be known as Jeffrey Fellows.
In addition to being a long-time trustee of Harding Hospital, Nancy was on the board at what is now The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center East Hospital where she saw emergency rooms filled with people whose needs could not best be met in that setting. Nancy’s vision soon took shape – to find a single on-ramp where people could come, be evaluated, and connect to an appropriate level of care, in the right setting, in a humane and respectable way.
“A single on-ramp – that was her metaphor – would be a destination where all resources in the community would be connected. We are blessed with many resources, but if the person or family in crisis must figure it out, it’s a guessing game on where to go for help,” Anne explained.
Nancy began convening hospital system thought leaders to brainstorm and build support for what ultimately will become the Franklin County Crisis Care Center. It is work she continued until her death in November 2018. Tad preceded her in death in February 2016. They married in 1951 and had four children (Anne Jeffrey Wright, Sally Jeffrey O’Neil, Betsy Jeffrey Balderston and Andy Jeffrey) who continue their parents’ legacy through this generous gift to the crisis care center.
The Franklin County Crisis Care Center has a “no wrong door” philosophy, which is in keeping with Nancy’s early vision for the community. When it opens in 2025, the more than 70 thousand-square-foot facility will serve up to 80 individuals at any point in time and offer critical crisis intervention services including walk-in and inpatient units. The crisis care center will meet a range of needs through an innovative model that integrates recovery, clinical and medical services together to provide comprehensive, person-centered care.
“It is as an honor to have the Jeffrey family as a partner in this pivotal project to improve the health of our community, and we are thankful for their continued leadership and grateful to be part of a team that is ensuring Nancy’s vision becomes a reality,” said ADAMH CEO Erika Clark Jones.