by Pam Martin, RN, MBA, Heath Care Management
Immediate Past Chair, Josselyn Board of Directors

As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, we celebrate the long history and accomplishments of three women who have led Josselyn during its past 73 years. Their drive, vision, and commitment has built Josselyn into the pre-eminent North Shore mental health care provider it is today.

Josselyn’s origin story began with Irene Josselyn, a well-respected and visionary Child and Adult Psychiatrist, who became concerned about the lack of an affordable mental health care provider in the area.

“Dr. Josselyn knew the incredible importance of community mental health back in the early 1950’s. Because of her stature, not only did she successfully launch a community mental health center well before its time, but her reputation made working for her a prestigious position,” noted Louis J. Kraus, MD., Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Rush University.

In 1951, along with the support of community members, she launched the North Shore Mental Health Association.

She was committed to the idea that the needs of people with mental health challenges could best be met by embedding care in communities rather than in state institutions.

It was over a decade later that President John F. Kennedy, Jr. signed into law the Community Mental Health Act of 1963, similar to the community care model originally created by Irene Josselyn. The North Shore Mental Health Association, now well established as a provider of affordable and accessible care was later renamed in her honor.

Dottie Palumbo took Josselyn to new levels of reach and impact over the next 25 years as Executive Director. Her entire professional life was dedicated to public service and a commitment to improving people’s lives.

She had a particular focus on the needs of children and teens in our community, responding to increasing calls from worried parents seeking help from Josselyn during the cultural revolution of the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Dottie launched many youth programs that were ultimately spun off by Josselyn to local communities. These programs were designed to engage teens and foster the social and emotional well-being of the youngest members of our community. Her initiatives included offering recreational, social and service activities, youth mentoring, leadership skill training and a drop-in center for teens.  

Josselyn continued to grow and thrive under her leadership. She led the successful effort to earn accreditation from the Illinois Department of Human Services, which provided needed state reimbursement to support the mental health care of children, families and adults who did not have private insurance.  

Her legacy lives on through the Dottie Palombo Fund, created by friends and colleagues to ensure that mental health services for children will be affordable for generations to come.  

Susan Resko, Josselyn’s current CEO and President, joined Josselyn in 2015. She has been a driving force behind Josselyn’s growth, utilizing her background in banking, fundraising, marketing, change management, and mental health advocacy to transform Josselyn from a small Community Mental Health Center into a regional center of excellence in northern Cook and Lake Counties.

Susan has a broad vision for Josselyn and a particular commitment to three main goals:

 

Accessibility

She has an overarching belief that children, families and adults should have access to services close to where they live, preventing a major obstacle for receiving mental health care. Over the past eight years, Susan led Josselyn’s expansion from one to eight locations, most recently adding two locations in Waukegan and Grayslake, both communities of high unmet need. During her tenure, Josselyn has dramatically expanded from 1,100 to now over 7,200 clients served.  She oversaw the consolidation between Josselyn and Family Service of Lake County in 2023, further strengthening Josselyn’s ability to give care to an expanded population. She has made it a priority to embed clinical programs into schools and community centers, including Waukegan Public School District 60 and the Nuestro Center in Highwood.

Continuity of Care

Susan is committed to the model of providing a full range of mental health care services. Of particular importance is including psychiatry in addition to therapy to ensure continuity of care for clients, distinguishing Josselyn from most other providers.  Under her leadership, psychiatric services grew in both size and quality, and Josselyn is now the community rotation site for Rush University Medical Center Child and Psychiatry Fellows and Northwestern McGaw School of Medicine Medical Residents. Josselyn also provides art therapy, employment support and a newly opened Intensive Outpatient Program for Teens.

Clinical Excellence

 Of all the priorities, Susan sets a high bar for clinical excellence. Josselyn’s exceptional performance in client outcomes is recognized by both state and federal legislators.  Under her leadership, Josselyn has been the recipient of over $20 million in grants for expansion of services and programs in the past two years. Collaborative agreements with two of Chicago’s finest healthcare systems and Loyola University’s 2023 “Agency of the Year Award” for Josselyn’s outstanding clinical programs are testimonies to Josselyn’s quality.

These significant grants reflect Josselyn’s strength as a Center of Excellence in Community Mental Health and recognition of Susan’s management talent.

Pablo Alvarez, Josselyn’s current Board Chair, notes, “Susan is an amazing leader and visionary who personifies the beliefs, ideals and values, that our founder Irene Josselyn envisioned to provide Mental health for all. During her tenure, she has advanced Josselyn’s mission by expanding to areas of need in Cook and now Lake Counties so that thousands of clients can be served with optimal and effective mental health resources. On behalf of the Board, we are excited to have Susan continue to lead with her core conviction that Josselyn will reach new heights, investing in the mental health and well- being of our entire community.”

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