Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 10:21 PM EDTControversy has surrounded mental health care reform in North Carolina for at least a decade. There are a number of issues affecting people who need help such as services and affordability.No one has been a greater advocate for better care in Western North Carolina than our "Person of the Week".He's even been called a pioneer, someone who has made a difference in hundreds of lives. "We will definitely work with you until you feel comfortable."They come with mental health issues.For Marianne Nash, if it wasn't for All-Souls Counseling Center, a non-profit, she couldn't afford treatment for anxiety and depression."I'm just grateful for everything they've done.""Some pay with a dollar. One person brings in four quarters every week."But it's not money that drives the staff and counselors who work here."All Souls plays a critical need".And no one plays a more critical role in keeping the center going.The man who is also instrumental for creating mountain opportunities, a day program providing jobs for the developmentally disabled.Larry Thompson, "Person of the Week", "as folks with developmental disabilities get beyond school age there's nothing for them, no service available." For 30 years, Larry Thompson has been the chief advocate for mental health issues in Western North Carolina. He directed Blue Ridge Mental Health and Western Highlands.He's active on at least six boards for various agencies, working to improve conditions for those in need.Dan Berger, psychologist, "when he was in that role of CEO, he had a relatively significant impact on legislation."Sue A. Brooks, "All Souls" executive director, "Larry is one of those behind the scenes people that truly cares and gives more than 100% in a lot of directions."It's because he cares about the direction mental health care reform is taking.Consolidating services and facilities and cutting costs to a point that many aren't being served."There's been a lot of chaos in the system for quite a few years now.""The mental health system is very complex and most of the lawmakers have been there less than four years. They're having to really learn what the system is about."Few, if any, know the system better than Larry Thompson."He is out there actively making a difference in the community."It's a difference he's been making, in part because of a deeply personal experience. Larry knows first hand the trauma that can come when a loved one lacks treatment.He knows it from losing a brother to suicide, "I felt I could have done something but didn't, and he wasn't seeking treatment and it affected his job which led to his death."He's taken personal loss and made a lasting impact to better the lives of hundreds in need of those with mental challenges."It grabs you and you live with that forever."Larry has also played a major role in developing housing for the developmentally disabled or mentally ill.If you know of someone who might benefit from the housing program, or the day program that provides jobs, click here for more information. Larry Thompson
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