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New CEO tackles tough economy

July 1, 2010
by Lindsay Barba, Associate Editor
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Linda Garceau-Luis uses her development expertise to increase Centerstone Foundation's fundraising success

Linda garceau-luisIn such harsh economic times, a behavioral healthcare organization might be hard-pressed to find a professional willing to take on the tough job of leading a fundraising campaign. But Linda Garceau-Luis understands that even tough times bring new opportunities for success, and she plans to tap into these sources as Centerstone Foundation's new CEO.

In this new role, she is responsible for development efforts for the Foundation in both Indiana and Tennessee, as well as for those in support of the Centerstone Research Institute (CRI). “My role is to connect individuals, foundations, and corporations to Centerstone's mission,” she says.

But the economy wasn't the greatest obstacle in Garceau-Luis' way when she took on her new role in April. Rather, the flooding of Nashville, Centerstone's headquarters location, in early May presented an entirely different kind of challenge. The floods caused destruction in Middle Tennessee that could take years to rebuild.

“In some of our locations, we do have a lot of cleanup to do, including one of the locations near where I am, which was totally flooded out,” she says. “But I think we're fortunate overall not to have been affected too much.”

While dealing with the relocation of several of its own facilities, Centerstone also supported the rest of the community as a resource, offering its case managers for assistance at local Disaster Information Centers and encouraging community members to utilize its crisis services. “I think we're in recovery mode now,” Garceau-Luis says.

Well prepared for the challenge ahead

Having spent most of her career working for academic healthcare centers, Garceau-Luis led development efforts at Dartmouth Medical School before relocating to the Nashville area to continue her career at Vanderbilt Medical Center and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She points out that Centerstone, which became the nation's largest provider of community-based behavioral healthcare after its merger with CBH and Quinco in 2008, is also an academic medical center, not unlike the others for which she has worked in the past.

“As with my previous positions, Centerstone has a four-pronged mission: patient care, research, education, and outreach,” she says. “I am excited to be joining Centerstone at this critical time when the recent mergers have occurred and the organization is positioned to emerge as the premier academic behavioral healthcare organization in the world.”

Centerstone is not Garceau-Luis' first venture into the behavioral health field, either. After graduating from Plymouth State College of the University of New Hampshire, she accepted a job with the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Mental Health Hospital in Hanover, N.H., working closely with physicians in the field treating behavioral health conditions. “I developed an appreciation for the complexity of this area of medicine,” she says. “I believe that Centerstone has changed the paradigm in behavioral healthcare … and I am passionate about Centerstone's mission to ‘prevent and cure mental illness and addiction.’”

Centerstone's financial priorities are well aligned with this mission, according to Garceau-Luis, who says that the organization will focus on raising funds for three key areas. First, development efforts will focus on Centerstone programs that support uninsured individuals in Indiana and Tennessee. “Typically, these programs are not fundable by any means other than through private support from individuals, foundations, and corporations,” she says.

Second, Centerstone will focus on raising funds for the growing CRI, which has attracted $50 million in federal, state, and private grants since 2003. “Research is the key to unlocking the clues to who gets mental illness, what treatment works best for which individuals, and what are the most effective ways to alleviate symptoms and cure mental illness,” Garceau-Luis says.

Last, Centerstone plans to enhance its funding in support of returned military service members and their families. Through its partnership with Not Alone-a confidential, online community providing support and local-service links to service members affected by combat stress and PTSD-Centerstone will fund Project Safe Return, which will expand behavioral health services to veterans, active members of the armed forces, and military families.

Little known advantages

With philanthropic donations down in just about every industry, Garceau-Luis knows that she has her work cut out for her. “Donors give when they're ready,” she says, “not on our timetable.”

But she also knows her field well enough to have a few strategies up her sleeve. “Planned giving is popular in any economy but especially in down economic times,” she says. “Life income gifts provide the donor a current income tax deduction and a stream of income for life, and bequests allow a donor to make a commitment for the cause about which they are passionate without feeling they are jeopardizing their current financial stability.”

Because of this, Garceau-Luis says that she plans to focus on growing Centerstone's endowment “to affect more lives now and provide for future generations,” as 80 percent of all endowment funds come from planned gifts.

For behavioral health providers lacking in resources and Garceau-Luis' fundraising expertise, she suggests that board members can often create opportunities to engage with philanthropists. “Our board members are critical to our success,” she says.

She also encourages development professionals in the behavioral health field to “be fearless,” while keeping a plan ready on hand. “Without it, you will not know how to proceed.”

Behavioral Healthcare 2010 July-August;30(7):40