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Johnson County officials honor Mental Health Advocate Veda Higgins

BY DANIEL SEIDL | SEPTEMBER 27, 2013 5:00 AM

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A nearly three-decade-long advocate for the disabled community was recognized for her achievements at the Johnson County Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday morning.

After 25 years, Veda Higgins is retiring from her position as a Johnson County mental-health advocate.

“We wanted to recognize and not only just say thank you [to her],” Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said. “… But truly on behalf of so many individuals who may or may not have a mental illness.”

Higgins’ passion to help the mentally disabled is shown by the lengths she goes to in helping them.

Higgins keeps her phone on at all hours in case one of her clients needs help, she said.

“I would answer, and sometimes … they needed assistance right at that time,” she said.

In her job, Higgins said, she represented the disabled through the care process.

“One of my important roles is as a liaison between the staff and the patients,” Higgins said. “If they don’t like the medication or wonder when they might be discharged [they can talk to me].”

Superviosr Chairwoman Janelle Rettig said that Higgins is greatly respected by all those who she has worked with.

“Veda has cheerfully managed one of the heaviest advocate workloads in the state
of Iowa,” Rettig said.

In light of her service to the citizens of Johnson County, and her retirement, the supervisors moved on Thursday for an official Resolution of Appreciation of Veda Higgins.

“We, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, do hereby extend our sincere appreciation to Veda Higgins for her years of dedicated service to the citizens — particularly those experiencing or affected by mental illness — of Johnson County,” the resolution said.

Neuzil said Higgins was one of the greatest resources for the citizens of Johnson County, especially those with mental illnesses.

“Veda Higgins has been their voice for so many years,” he said, “She is absolutely a champion when it comes to really truly helping people.”

In addition to being the voice of the disabled in Johnson County, Neuzil said, Higgins helps spread the word about mental illness.

Higgins said that she decided to retire because of her age, though the decision wasn’t easy to make.

“A lot of them feel that I am their person,” she said. “I was glad to take care of the patients and assist them when I could.”

Higgins said that she is leaving Johnson County, a county she said has always had strong mental-health services, but Neuzil is unsure that they will be able to replace her sufficiently.

“There’s no way to fill the shoes that Veda Higgins wears,” he said.


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