Marilyn Cormack to Retire from BHcare Marilyn Cormack, President, BHcare (formerly Birmingham Group Health Services), will retire on June 28, 2013 after thirty years of service. Cormack joined the organization in 1983 and has fulfilled the role of President since 1989. Cormack started her career with BHcare (Birmingham) as the Director of Rehabilitation. She had a background in mental health and recovery from Goodwill Industries where she served as the Director of Human Services during the early 80s. When Marilyn joined the organization, the agency had less than 30 employees and was primarily an administrative facility with many community partners that provided mental health services. Rehabilitation and recovery were just becoming known in the mental health field. Cormack was brought in to help expand those programs. She was instrumental in the expansion of services to include a work center, social rehab, case management and other mental health services, making BHcare (Birmingham) the first agency in CT to incorporate these services. The need for helping clients get jobs and secure housing was at the forefront of the organization. The organization continued to expand its services and reach over the years. Cormack worked her way up the ladder becoming the Associate Director for Services in 1986, Vice President of Services in 1988 and President in 1989. Cormack was an integral part of the committee that started the Greater Valley Substance Abuse Action Council (VSAAC) and very instrumental in keeping domestic violence services in the Valley. She had a deep commitment to domestic violence services and in 2009 took the Domestic Violence Services of New Haven under its wings. Cormack’s goal for the company was to provide a more integrated system of services available to the community. She also helped to develop CommuniCare. CommuniCare is a unique and dynamic behavioral healthcare partnership that was formed in 1996 by Birmingham Group Health Services, Inc., Bridges…A Community Support System, Inc., and Harbor Health Services, Inc. (Birmingham and Harbor merged in 2011 to form BHcare). Cormack served on many boards including the Beth-El Center (current board president), Connecticut Council of Community Mental Health Centers, Connecticut Community Providers Association, Valley Substance Abuse Council, Valley Needs and Opportunities, Valley Council of Health and Human Services Organization (first chair) and ACT Homeless Shelter. She was also a surveyor for Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), a member of the Department of Mental Health Statewide Program Standards Committee and a part of various other community service organizations. Over her career, Cormack received many honors and awards including Stratford Jaycees’ “Woman of the Year” in 1976, CT Post “Woman of Substance” award in 1993 and the Valley Chamber of Commerce “Gold Seals Award” in 1993.
According to Cormack, her greatest accomplishment has been watching the organization grow into a diverse agency serving the needs of so many in the community. She’s had to make difficult decisions over the years, always thinking strategically about the future of the organization, and is proud where the organization is today. She enjoys learning new things and is not afraid of change as long as the change makes sense. She was once called a “pragmatic visionary” by former board chair Irene Smith. She has a strong belief in communication and her personal philosophy is to always be as kind as you can. She likes to see people form partnerships because problems can be so complex that people need to work together to make a change. Cormack’s most important moments of her life are the births of her children and grandchildren. She has 2 children and 3 grandchildren. When her children were born, she became a stay-at-home mom until her youngest turned 10. At that time, she went back to school to earn a second degree, a master of science in counseling with a minor in political science from the University of Bridgeport to add to her bachelor of social work degree that she earned from Sacred Heart University. She feels to be a successful leader you need to look at everyone’s skills and to put their talents to use. “No leader can do it alone,” she says. She believes you need to praise staff and be appreciative of what each person contributes to fulfilling the mission. It is important to build a team that is willing and able to move forward and be a vital part of the community. She has a real passion for her work and especially the domestic violence program. She has always been abhorred at any inhumanity to man and believes violence is not necessary. She feels everyone should have a deep commitment to make a change in the violence that is a part of our society. With domestic violence, “poor, innocent kids are traumatized and many women can’t fight back,” she states. She believes it is important to work hard to make a change. The most influential people in Cormack’s life were her parents. Her father always told her she could do whatever she wanted. This was a time when few women held leadership roles and many occupations were held by men only. His belief in her was a very instrumental aspect of her career letting her know that just because she was a girl, didn’t mean that she couldn’t do anything she wanted. She proved him right very early on by becoming the captain of the Boys Patrol and a drummer in the Fife and Drum Corp. As she reflects on the values her mother instilled in her she said, “she was one of the kindest persons I’ve ever known.” Her mother taught her to always be kind to everyone. Her mother’s influence and her father’s constant encouragement are why she developed a great compassion for mankind and was so committed to her work at BHcare. Cormack believes it’s important for women to pursue leadership roles. She believes women approach the workplace differently than men and that together, men and women provide a good balance. Over the years, Cormack has worked with many talented people and has valued the management teams that have been a part of the organization. She appreciates the staff’s dedication and commitment to the mission. In the future, she would like to see people in the field get rewarded for what they do and the value they bring to the community.
In the days to come, Cormack plans to stay involved in her church, remain active in the town of Milford, continue to advocate for domestic violence and looks forward to any opportunities that may come along. She is not one to sit at home. She loves to read, swim and travel. She feels blessed to have so many friends in her life and feels that her friendships are very important, especially at the time of retirement. Cormack is very comfortable leaving the helm to Roberta Cook, BHcare’s current CEO. “We have split the leadership position for the past 18 months and share the same mission and vision for the organization,” she said. She believes that Cook possess the skill sets and knowledge needed to successfully run BHcare. As far as remaining active with BHcare, Cormack feels it’s important to step aside and let the new leader have her own style but will always be available if needed and will continue to support fundraiser efforts. BHcare is a state-licensed, non-profit behavioral health care provider serving the Lower Naugatuck Valley, Greater New Haven, and Shoreline communities.