In Melissa’s Name: Family works to improve services for central Ohio’s mentally ill

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A central Ohio family who watched their daughter's daily struggle with mental illness is working to provide a healing environment for those fighting for recovery.

Ask Elaine Goldberg about her daughter Melissa and you’ll hear a mother's pride.

"I used to say, she was going to be the first woman president of the world, not even the United States," she said.

Ask her about Melissa's struggle for her sanity, and that pride turns to deepest kind of pain.

"Seeing her suffering, seeing her not doing the things she had dreams to do…” she said, breaking into tears.

Despite the outward appearance of having it all, Melissa Goldberg's adult life was plagued by bipolar disorder and years of hospitalization.

The search for the care she needed took her parents hundreds of miles from here.

"We continually were looking in Ohio, looking in the Midwest, looking somewhere to bring her closer to home, but we could never find any facilities that we felt would be a healing atmosphere," Elaine Goldberg said.

Melissa's fight ended in 2006 with her death. In their grief, her parents took up a new fight.

"We came home from the hospital that day and our lawyer was there and he said, ‘I'm writing the obituary, where do you want the donations to go?’ and I said, ‘Melissa's House,’" Elaine Goldberg said.

The idea was to create new safe places in central Ohio for people like Melissa to receive care.

But after six years of challenges and frustration, Melissa's family realized their desire to help, had gone nowhere. That's when they decided to change direction.

They decided to go into places where people with mental illness currently live and change the environment there.

Those places include a transitional living home owned and operated by Netcare Access. Netcare offers just the essentials- shelter and mental health services.

"We want it to feel homey and a place that you would want to be,” Netcare’s Kimberly Reynolds said. “But when it's all said and done, quite honestly, we use all of our funds for direct services. And there is so much that needs improvement in our facility.”

That’s where Melissa's House comes in, renovating and upgrading the space.

“It's floors, it's lighting, it's painting, it's furniture,” Elaine Goldberg said. “We've done exercise rooms, we do libraries. People donate books. They do cookouts because we've improved the outdoor area for them to enjoy. It's just an entirely different atmosphere.”

Reynolds said the improvements are much more than cosmetic.

"The research stands that the environment is so important. The colors are important, knowing that what surrounds you is positive, that you matter," she said.

Bryan Bethel just arrived at the Netcare home one day ago, seeking help for depression, anxiety, and addiction.

"It is a house,” he said. “It's not like a hospital setting. So you get that sense of home a little bit. It's just a blessing this place is here.”

Making a difference in Melissa's name.

"[It’s] Very rewarding,” Elaine Goldberg said. “Very, very rewarding."

Melissa's House has so far renovated four local facilities that serve hundreds of people with mental illness.

How you can support their mission: http://www.melissashouse.org/events/.