2014 Distinguished Service Award recipient
Maureen Bauman, MSW '81, MPA '86
“Sometimes careers are planned and sometimes there are just opportunities where you go,” says Maureen Bauman.
Bauman didn’t plan to become one of the Northern California’s foremost advocates for de-stigmatizing mental illness. That opportunity came through her role as director of the Placer County Adult System of Care, overseeing mental health services and drug and alcohol services for one of the fastest growing areas in the state.
Mental health professionals are making strides in efforts to increase understanding of the challenging field and Bauman is using her experience, education and persistence to advance the cause.
“One of the things with drugs and alcohol, and especially mental health, is the huge amount of stigma associated with these diseases,” Bauman says. “People are afraid to say they have a mental illness. Sometimes we act like it’s this small sliver of people, but 25 percent of us have mental illness and may need treatment or intervention. Through the Mental Health Services Act we’re trying to de-stigmatize mental illness and help people understand it.”
Bauman obtained her bachelor’s degree in social work at San Jose State, but she wasn’t yet set on a career path. Before pursuing graduate work at Sac State, she gained experience working in a women’s home and as a Vista volunteer, which helped steer her plans.
“I’ve always leaned toward administration, but I also always believed you need to start at the bottom and work your way up,” Bauman says.
Sac State’s dual degree program allowed her to obtain master’s degrees in both social work and public administration at the same time.
“It was a two-for-one deal and I’m a bit of a sucker for deals,” Bauman jokes.
She says the relationships with professors and her cohorts made a significant impact. The business-related administration courses she took left a lasting impression and she applied the lessons immediately in her position at Sierra Family Services, where she eventually became chief executive officer.
Bauman maintains close ties to Sac State. Her office employs interns from the University’s social work programs and she has worked with faculty and administration to utilize funding from the Mental Health Services Act to improve the curriculum.
California voters passed the Act in 2004. In addition to the educational components, it provides funding for counties to expand services and treatment for those dealing with mental illness. In April Bauman will begin a term as president of the Mental Health Services Authority, a board with representatives from each county that works together to implement the Act.
Bauman also serves on a steering committee for Assembly Bill 109—the public safety realignment bill—and is co-chair of the Placer Collaborative Network, a volunteer group of community leaders dedicated to improving the quality of life in Placer County.
When she’s not engrossed in her job and extracurricular activities, Bauman enjoys spending time on her property in Penryn and traveling. She also volunteers with her church and attends local meetings of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“I have a brother that has schizophrenia so I have sympathy for those families,” Bauman says. “Many times it’s the family members of the adults who are mentally ill that provide a huge amount of support and are keeping them safe in their communities.”