Suzanne Gresham, pioneer for mental health treatment in Muncie and Indiana has died

From The Star Press

MUNCIE, Ind. – Suzanne L. Gresham, 84, a pioneer in the field of mental health and guided Comprehensive Mental Health Services, which later became Meridian Health Services, died Dec. 13.

Gresham began her work in the mental health field in Detroit but came to Muncie to where she expanded local services to meet mental health needs in the local community.

In 1979, she became the first woman in Indiana to be president/CEO of a mental health center, then called Comprehensive Mental Health, where she expanded staff and developed new programs for Muncie and Delaware County, also serving people across East Central Indiana.

“We are saddened by the great loss of Dr. Suzanne Gresham who served 23 years as the president and CEO of Meridian Health Services,” said Beth Clark, vice president of marketing and development. “She was a remarkable woman and a true trailblazer as the first woman to head a community health center in Indiana.

“She paved the way for many of the children and family programs that Meridian still provides today – especially services provided at the Suzanne Gresham Center, which was established by Meridian Health Services in 2007 in honor of Dr. Gresham.

“We are proud to live out her legacy at Meridian in the work we do every day to help children and families in need,” Clark said. “Our deepest condolences are with her family, friends, and all who were touched by her compassionate spirit.”

Gresham retired in March 2002. During her time leading the organization, its staff expanded from 42 serving 2,000 people each year to a staff of 230 people serving more than 5,500 individuals, according to a statement from Meridian. She took the organization through a number of initiatives that would provide more access to care in the community. Those initiatives included:

  • Establishment of a specialized program for the “dually diagnosed” in Delaware County – now referred to as the Connxxions Program serving those with intellectual or developmental disorders and mental health needs throughout the state of Indiana.
  • Creation of a specialized therapeutic foster care program for severely distressed children, which has since transformed into the FosterHope program for children in need of emotional, behavioral, or mental health assistance.
  • Formation of a “Children’s Team” to provide services to children and teens, as well as the establishment of school-based services, which has now grown to services for children throughout the state through primary medical care, behavioral health services, school-based health clinics, and more.
  • Expansion of Addictions and Recovery Programs, including aftercare and day treatment programs, group therapy services, and an Intensive Outpatient Program for substance use treatment.

Gresham served the Muncie community as a board member or officer for 12 civic organizations including: United Way of Delaware County, Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, and Altrusa Club.

Her leadership with the local mental health organization was recognized after her retirement with the development of the center on White River Boulevard that bears her name. The Suzanne Gresham Center is home to various Meridian programs, including services for East Central Indiana children and their families. According to the Meridian website, the center is a continual reminder of Gresham’s dedication to Muncie.

The Suzanne Gresham Center houses the Child Advocacy Center where interviews and investigations of children who have experienced trauma from abuse and other harmful situations are conducted in a concise and caring manner, leading to higher prosecution rates of the abusers.

Westminster Village Retirement Community had Gresham serve on its board for 15 years, four of them as board president. She would spend her last days there under the care of Westminster.

Gresham was preceded in death by her parents, Bert and Anna Craft, and husband, Julian Gresham.

A celebration of her life will be conducted at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan 13., at First Presbyterian Church, 1400 W. Riverside Ave. Friends may call at the church from 11 a.m. until service time.

Services are being handled by Meeks Mortuary and online condolences may be directed to the family at www.meeksmortuary.com.