WMed honors Jeff Patton, CEO of Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, during Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration

MLK Day Celebration at WMed - January 2024
Jeff Patton, CEO of Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, receives a standing ovation as he is honored at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration at WMed on January 12, 2024.

In January, as he was being honored during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration at WMed, Jeff Patton, CEO of Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, challenged the crowd at the event with a call to action.

As it stands now, he said, statistics show that one in 25 adults are suffering from a serious mental illness but relatively few receive effective treatment. Also, while suicide rates among all children have remained relatively stable, a recent study showed the number of black and African American children who have died by suicide has almost doubled since 1993.

“We need more funding for our community mental health system,” said Patton, who has served as the CEO of ISK since 2001. “The world is not very good right now, we’re all in a frenzy and we all have anxiety. We need to do a much better job here in Kalamazoo and we’re making efforts in doing that but it is not enough and we know that.”

As an organization, ISK’s mission is to provide mental health, intellectual/developmental disability, and substance use disorder resources that empower people to succeed, according to the ISK website. In honoring Patton during the MLK Day event at the medical school on January 12, 2024, WMed leaders recognized his leadership of ISK and the organization’s work that honors Dr. King’s dream by providing mental and behavioral health services for residents in Kalamazoo County.

“His work exemplifies what Martin Luther King stood for,” said Cheryl Dickson, MD, MPH, the medical school’s chief wellness officer and associate dean for Health Equity. “He is an amazing person.”

The MLK Day Celebration, which was held in the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus Auditorium, kicked off with the singing of an a cappella version of “Lift Every Voice,” by Chelo Obaid, who serves as an executive assistant in the Office of the Dean. 

“This is really an opportunity for our community to come together, share perspectives, and break bread as we reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and life’s work, as well as how we personally can continue to advance his dream,” WMed Dean Paula Termuhlen, MD, said.

Following Dr. Termuhlen’s remarks, the crowd at the celebration watched a recorded message from U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, who took time to thank Patton for his years of work to expand access to mental and behavioral health services in Kalamazoo and throughout the state.

“I’m proud to be leading a nationwide initiative to fund behavioral healthcare the same as physical healthcare,” Stabenow said. “There are currently 41 certified community behavioral health clinics in Michigan and I’m so pleased that Integrated Services of Kalamazoo was one of the first. This couldn’t have happened without the hard work and dedication of CEO Jeff Patton. Jeff has been an amazing partner and friend. He has been a tireless advocate for certified community behavioral health clinics … He also understands how important it is to ensure that we have enough trained mental health professionals.”

As he concluded his remarks at the MLK Day Celebration, Patton encouraged those in the crowd to take time on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to read through some of Dr. King’s speeches “and just feel the power he has left behind.”

“Let’s be part of Dr. King’s dream and work to make the necessary changes to our mental health system to improve the lives of people with mental health disabilities,” he said.

The crowd was also treated to a poetry reading from Denise Miller, a Kalamazoo artist and poet and an English instructor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Miller said the poem, much like Patton’s remarks, was a call to action.

“This poem reminds us our conscience needs to be the broom that sweeps clean the house of our souls so that all of us can overcome,” Miller said, reading from her poem. “It reminds us that in us is the means by which we live is all the strength and vision we’ll ever need to keep all kinds of enslavement and inequity undone.”

As the event concluded, Dr. Dickson thanked those who attended and filled the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus Auditorium.

“I want to thank each of you for the work you’re doing and the work we will continue to do for the health and care of the people in the Kalamazoo community,” Dr. Dickson said.

If you weren’t able to attend the MLK Day Celebration on January 13, a full video of the event can be viewed on the medical school’s YouTube channel.