Julie Kramp champions mental health

Julie Kramp champions mental health
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Julie Kramp likens her job to that of a symphony conductor, who doesn’t play a note at the concert but keeps the music moving at a steady pace.

Kramp is not a therapist but she is the executive director of The Center for Counseling and Consultation, which provides professional, licensed mental health services to Barton, Pawnee, Rice and Stafford counties.

There are 82 employees working to achieve the goals of the “orchestra” that is The Center.

As its administrator since 2016, her duties are to bring her staff and multiple community partner networks together, “meeting the needs of consumers and employees while serving the community to the best of our ability and planning for the future,” she said.

“I think the whole point of a community mental health center is to assist people so that they can live independently within their communities,” she said.

“Mental health touches so many different aspects,” she said, citing law enforcement, the judicial system, health departments, schools and community corrections.

Before The Center

Born in Axtell, she has lived in Barton County since she was a child. She started kindergarten at Park Elementary School, later attended Roosevelt Junior High, and graduated from GBHS in 1977.

“My dad’s dad had the newspaper in Axtell,” Kramp said. The family moved to Great Bend where her father, Robert Werner, worked at the Great Bend Tribune as a salesman, later becoming the ad manager and then the publisher. “So, as long as I can remember, my family’s been involved in the newspaper business.”

Her father is deceased. Her mother now lives in Mission, Kansas, and her sister Debbie Dietz (also a former ad manager at the Tribune) lives in Oklahoma.

“Growing up in my family equipped me to have this sense of humor,” she said. “Being able to laugh at yourself and the mistakes you make, as well as see the humor in little everyday things, is a great coping mechanism – but it can also get you into a lot of trouble!”

One of Kramp’s earlier jobs was as a checker at Boogaarts Grocery Store in Great Bend. Indirectly, that’s how she got to know Kevin Kramp, her future husband. This November, they will have been married 40 years.

“I had worked at the grocery store and I knew his mom and his family,” she said. “He had six siblings. When they came in they always had two carts full of groceries. I loved to do the orders with the big carts because you really got to know the people, because you had time to talk to them, and they were lovely. They were fun and I really enjoy his family.”

Moving ahead with education

Kramp earned an associate degree from Barton Community College with a concentration in early childhood education and began working at Share and Care Preschool.

Then she became director of the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program for the 20th Judicial District.

Later she returned to BCC as an employee, holding several positions there as she earned an online degree from Friends University in Organizational Management and Leadership. Her last position at Barton was executive director of Workforce Training and Economic Development.

From Barton she went to Mosaic in Ellsworth, an organization that provides services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her next job was at The Center.

Moving to Great Bend

All this time, the Kramps lived on Kevin’s family sheep farm north of Ellinwood.

“And then I came to work here at The Center and we moved to Great Bend,” she said.

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The Kramps have three adult children: son Justin works for VMLY&R in Kansas City, son Kohl works for OneOK in Bushton and daughter Jennifer is in Ellinwood, where she and husband Scott Andersen own Kansas Earth and Sky Candle Co.

Jennie and Scott lived in Kansas City until they sold their house there and moved home to the Kramp farm. “We lived together for a few months and decided that the house got pretty small,” Kramp said. “It was fun, but they needed all the space and I needed to be closer to work.”

Kevin and Julie also have six grandchildren.

With agriculture in his roots, Kevin maintains that vibe by working as the night security officer for Innovative Livestock Services.

A “worker bee”

Amy Boxberger, director of Central Kansas Community Corrections, said she and Kramp often collaborate on areas where their agencies intersect. Together they serve on the Stepping Up Initiative that aims to lower the number of mentally ill people in jails; the Behavioral Health Advisory Council, which provides community oversight to behavioral health initiatives; the Core Community Advisory Board where Kramp serves as a “friend” to a person in the program that’s goal is to break the cycle of poverty by forming positive relationships; and the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Advisory Board. “We are working to create a NAMI affiliate in our area to provide free support groups and education to people living with mental illness and their families,” Boxberger said.

“Julie is a true advocate for our community; she has a heart for people with behavioral health disparities and puts the work in to make a difference.”

That’s why Boxberger describes Kramp as a “worker bee.”

“She knows that you have to put the work in to get the work done. It’s always to better our community. We’re the perfect size community where a few people can make a big impact — but we need those few.”

Vicki Richardson, the family engagement coordinator with the Kansas Children’s Service League – Health Families, tells a similar story, having known Kramp since the 1980s.

“She’s made an impact,” Richardson said, noting Kramp’s work at bringing the Zero Reasons Why teen suicide prevention initiative to central Kansas. Whether at CASA, Mosaic or The Center, Richardson said, “she’s always been very actively involved in making the lives of people she works with better. She wants to make a difference in the world.”

Mental Health Awareness

Kramp notes that The Center’s Mental Health Awareness Day celebration is coming up on Aug. 2, from 3:30-7:30 pm at Jack Kilby Square.

“It’s on Election Day. So, hopefully, people will be out and they can just come by and have a hot dog or some popcorn and grab some goodies.”

Mental health is a goal for everyone, she said.

“We’re all in this together. Everybody wants their family to be safe and healthy and secure. That’s why mental health brings us all together.”

People need to maintain and monitor their mental health as carefully as they do their physical health, she said.

“We’re OK asking, ‘How am I taking care of my physical health? Am I exercising, am I getting enough water? Am I sleeping enough?’ Some of those things are also things that affect your mental health, but are you even checking on your mental health? Are you even asking yourself, ‘How am I feeling mentally? How do I feel?’”

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