Board Member Kara Guerriero Brings Personal Connection to Mental Health Care
Monarch Board Member Kara Guerriero of Charlotte knows firsthand the despair that a family can feel navigating mental health support needed for a loved one diagnosed with a mental illness. She draws not only from personal experiences as a mental health advocate for her brother but also from a professional background in the mental health field.
In June 2018, Guerriero was invited by President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Peggy Terhune, Ph.D., MBA, OT/L, to become a member of Monarch’s Board of Directors. Guerriero, a resident of the Charlotte area, currently serves on the Board’s Finance and Board Development committees as well as the Board’s chair-elect.
Guerriero, who has over 20 years in a variety of roles within the mental health field, currently serves as president of her own company, Incite Consulting Solutions, that offers strategic planning, implementation, project management and network connections for companies in the health care sector with a focus on organizational health concepts. Previously, she held positions of vice president of Member Membership and Corporate Relations for the National Council on Behavioral Health and in various roles at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Her professional experience in the mental health arena is invaluable as she works to overcome the challenges of coordinating care for her older brother, Rafe, 53, who is diagnosed with bipolar and schizoaffective disorder. He is currently receiving care through an inpatient, psychiatric facility in Rhode Island, her home state. His mental illness dates back to the 1990’s when he first experienced several suicide attempts. In recent months, she has led her family’s efforts to secure supervised living accommodations for her brother although progress has been slowed due to the pandemic.
Upon moving to North Carolina over five years ago, Guerriero had been researching for opportunities to serve on a community board. She wanted to help others with her knowledge of mental health resources. A casual conversation with Dr. Terhune, a professional contact at the time, opened the door.
Guerriero, passionate about being an advocate for people with mental illness, realizes that the effects of the pandemic have quickly increased the demand for mental health services: “No matter how much we have done in the past or how wonderful we think our services are, there is more work to be done. The people that we serve deserve more and I will always push that ball forward because there isn’t a good enough.”
She believes that the scope of her mental health background can not only help other families secure care but also be a productive contributor to Monarch’s Board in creating an impactful legacy. “I have a strong grasp of what really matters. What are we doing as an organization? Where are we setting our priorities and where are we challenging ourselves?” she said. “As a board member, I want staff to know that we are going to try to grow Monarch and offer supports so that you will love to come work every day and want to stay. Your perspectives are important to us and every job within Monarch matters.”
Whether she is serving on Monarch’s Board or is coordinating appropriate care for her brother, Guerriero doesn’t want her efforts to be in vain and will do what she can so that other families won’t have to experience what hers has. “I don’t want my brother’s life to be a cautionary tale about everything that went wrong,” she shared, adding that she would like to pursue finding ways that mental health care organizations can incorporate a family’s help in plans of care.
Guerriero has witnessed the effects of the COVID virus within her own family. Her brother was hospitalized early on during the pandemic for more than a week. Within her own company, her teammates have struggled with loss and the resulting impact on their own families.
With the pandemic’s effects hitting close to home, she is appreciative of the continued, dedicated work of Monarch’s frontline heroes and how the mission, vision and values remain a focus. “Thank you for coming to work every day. Thank you for the sacrifices that you and your family have made so that you can do your job,” she directed to staff. “I thank you from the perspective as a family who has had a brother in an institution through COVID and I wish that the people were as dedicated and compassionate as the people who work at Monarch are. I have every assurance that you are doing everything you can to make sure that our clients are able to live their best life through what are really difficult times.”
Guerriero and her husband, Chuck, live in the North Davidson (NODA) area of Charlotte with their English bulldog, Emma. The couple enjoy trying new restaurants, golfing and traveling. They moved to North Carolina to be near children and grandchildren.
To read more about Guerriero’s brother, click here to read The Providence Journal’s feature on Rafe’s journey to overcome mental health obstacles.
Posted on: Monday June 21, 2021