SOSL would like to announce that Kim Bozart will serve as the new chair of the SOSL Board of Directors. Kim has served on the board for over 2 years, is a supervisor for the Psychiatric Emergency Response Team PERT – and is passionate about working towards mental wellness, survivor support, and suicide prevention in San Diego. We hope you enjoy Kim’s story!
“The first few weeks after she passed away when I would run by their house my shoe would come untied. I would acknowledge it as a sign that she’s listening,” said Kim Bozart, the newest board member of Survivors of Suicide Loss.
Born and raised in a small suburb in Buffalo, New York, Kim attended Catholic school until eighth grade.
“It was a very ‘sheltered’ life because I only knew what I was exposed to,” she said.
Growing up Kim said no family members or friends ever discussed suicide. It was a non-conversation.
Kim joined the board in the beginning of 2016 because she saw a need to reach the first responders who come in direct contact with families after they’ve lost a loved one to suicide.
“I felt that SOSL could begin educating these community members on how their responses could help or harm those left behind. I want them to walk away with the message that they can make a difference.”
Two years ago she was the only member who didn’t know someone who took his or her own life. Then tragically last September she joined that group.
Lori was a mom who lived in the same neighborhood as Kim. But she was also recognized throughout the county as a realtor.
“I have known the family since we had our daughter Hudson, (who is 5).”
Prior to her death Kim said that during every social encounter with Lori she was smiling and appeared to be happy.
After her death, Kim said she was angry.
“I was really angry that it happened. I was really angry that I didn’t know…”
Kim said that despite the way other people are processing Lori’s death, including denial and misplaced blame, she now knows that Lori was not mentally well.
“For me I can truly say this was a brain disease, she was really sick.”
Kim has worked as a mental health provider for 15 years.
After graduating from college in New York and receiving her masters in social work she moved to San Diego and became a licensed clinical social worker.
Today she works as a supervisor with the regional Psychiatric Emergency Response Team or PERT, which provides psychiatric evaluations to individuals in crisis and connects them with the appropriate services in the collective effort to save lives.
“We want to stop that pattern of cycling through 911 to get needs met … we want the community and the resources that we have available to support the individuals that need help.”
Part of the way she does that is as an adjunct professor at Miramar College, where she trains local law enforcement to become more effective communicators when they interact with individuals who have a mental illness.
“Being able to convey empathy, sympathy and compassion—that’s what we’re really focused on.”
The county currently has 49 PERT clinicians and is funded for 51. However, she said that number must increase significantly in order to meet demand.
“There’s so many people in need and we’re such a large area that even though we’re considered a resource-rich county by state standards we still need way more community-based programs.”
Kim said that for the past decade law enforcement has seen a steady increase in their calls for service involving someone living with a mental illness or in a crisis. Furthermore she said that mental health calls have gone up 87 percent.
Kim believes this type of call accounts for between 25 to 40 percent of the total calls for service.
There are more people than we know who struggle with mental wellness. They include our family members, friends, significant others, coworkers, teammates and our neighbors.
What’s missing aside from more resources said Kim is the conversation surrounding this illness.
Within two weeks following Lori’s death, SOSL was brought in to facilitate a group in the neighborhood to talk about it.
“It’s important for me to have the individuals who died from their brain disease to be remembered for who they were, instead of how they passed.”
“It’s getting that conversation going. People don’t like talking about it, it’s uncomfortable, but we find that once people start talking, good things happen.”
Kim looks forward to better technology and medication to find and treat diseases such as depression, anxiety and bipolar, among many others.
“My hope is that people living with the brain disease of mental illness find hope and healing. I want treatment and support to be as available and encouraged as it is for every other disease out there, such as cancer and diabetes.”
To read Kim’s full biography, visit our Board & Leadership page.
San Diego Access and Crisis Line – 888 724-7240 that is operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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