JFCS provides comprehensive, individualized services for people living with mental illness

Mental illness affects thousands of people in ways large and small – from their career and finances to relationships with family and friends. It may be so severe that the individual has trouble functioning day-to-day, or so hidden that even close family and friends don’t know about the illness.


That is why JFCS – which has the ability to serve clients holistically with an array of almost 40 programs and services – plays such a vital role in helping the community with the effects of mental illness. From Counseling and Mental Health Support Services to Career Services and financial assistance, we have the ability to provide comprehensive, individualized services for people living with mental illness, as well as the people who care for them.


When someone contacts JFCS for help, we have a team of clinically trained professionals who take a holistic approach to each situation. Someone might call seeking career assistance, and in the course of the conversation JFCS staff may learn he/she is also experiencing depression and having trouble caring for aging parents.


“The beauty of a large agency like JFCS is that we have the capacity with our many programs to serve folks with wrap-around services when indicated,” said Ruth Paley, Clinical Services Director. “We hear them, understand the difficulty of their complex situation, and can help sort out what is most urgent.”


Jill Marks

Jill Marks

JFCS Board Past President Jill Marks’ son, Jeremy, receives services from the agency. Jeremy experienced a traumatic brain injury at age 13 and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at 22. He receives case management from JFCS Mental Health Support Services (MHSS), which helped him find housing in the community close to where he works. He also participates in recreational activities through JFCS’ Caring Connections program. “JFCS provides a wide range of programs that support the whole person with care, compassion and professionalism,” Marks said.

Marks, who has been actively involved with JFCS for many years as a volunteer, knew her son would receive great care. “I’m continually impressed by the quality and professionalism of the staff and the wide range of programs offered,” she said.


Jeremy is one of many individuals JFCS works with to help them reach their full potential. About one in four adults live with mental illness. JFCS’ highly-skilled and experienced therapists and case managers provide services that address mental health and other life challenges and struggles people face throughout their lives. Just as important, our services are able to provide relief and assistance for caregivers of people who live with mental illness.


For those who care for someone with mental illness, there is a lot of information and details to weave through, Marks said, and JFCS plays a vital role in helping these caregivers navigate it all. “Caregivers get stressed and stretched by all that’s required of them,” she said. “It’s nice for them to have a resource that can offer support and guidance.”


For many years JFCS has worked to educate the community about mental illness – as well as destigmatize it – through the annual Mental Health Education Conference. The event covers mental health issues affecting youth to people in the later stages of life and each year features a different keynote speaker. The speaker at the 16th annual conference on Oct. 23 is KSTP-TV meteorologist Ken Barlow, who has Bipolar Disorder. (For more information on this year’s conference, see page 13.)


The Mental Health Education Project is a collaborative program of JFCS and Jewish Family Service of St. Paul. Marks, who is a Licensed Psychologist, was an integral part of the creation of the conference, along with founder Laurie Kramer.


Marks’ family also established an endowment at JFCS – the Robinson-Marks Mental Health Fund, which supports mental health programs and projects. They created it after her daughter, Jami, died of suicide at age 21.


“I’m proud to be so connected to JFCS and very grateful for all the services they provide to my family and the community,” Marks said. “People thrive, grow and heal when they know they are cared about and involved and part of the community. JFCS offers that and more.”