Susan Ohmer is the Executive Director of Petersburg Mental Health Services. Photo courtesy of Susan Ohmer

Susan Ohmer is the Executive Director of Petersburg Mental Health Services. Photo courtesy of Susan Ohmer

Susan Ohmer, Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, Petersburg Mental Health Services, has been awarded a four month sabbatical by the Rasmuson Foundation. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

Susan Ohmer will soon be paid to take a four month vacation by the Rasmuson Foundation.

According to Rasmuson, Ohmer is the second longest tenured Mental Health Services Director in the state. She’s been in the field for 23 years and helped develop the town’s first locally run behavioral health center and works with the local schools.

Roy Agloinga is Rasmuson’s Program Officer. He works with the foundation’s sabbatical committee and says Ohmer is like other nonprofit leaders who find it challenging to leave work.

“She’s run an amazing program in Petersburg and she helps so many people,” Agloinga said. “The difficult thing for her and many other people like her is that she provides a one of a kind service for the community.”

The program’s goal is to retain exceptional CEOs, executive directors and tribal administrators in the sector by providing three- to six-month opportunities for rest, reflection and rejuvenation.

Recipients of the sabbatical can either be nominated or apply for the program themselves, like Ohmer did. Rasmuson uses different criteria for choosing the recipients including how long they’ve been in the job and their perceived need. Agloinga says Ohmer met both of these.

“She’s been doing it a long time,” Agloinga said. “She really needed a sabbatical, that was obvious.”

Recipients also need to have a good interim plan in place for while they’re gone.

Ohmer was unavailable for an interview about the sabbatical but said in an e-mail that she was “thrilled and nervous and happy” to be chosen.

Ohmer was picked along with five other nonprofit leaders for a sabbatical. There were 14 total applicants.

“When I talked with Susan’s references a lot of people were really worried about her being gone too long because she provides such an important role in the community,” Agloinga said.

But that’s just the type of person the sabbatical program is set up to help. It allows nonprofit leaders to leave work to re-energize so they can stay in their jobs longer. The program has been around for 11 years, and on average, it has extended a recipient’s tenure by three years.

“We really wanted to help people continue doing the kind of work that they do in the state which often times is very difficult work and often times without a break,” Agloinga said.

While on sabbatical, recipients are expected to completely step away from their organizations. Ohmer plans to take the time to do a road-trip with her husband to visit family and friends, some national parks and museums and to go camping.

Rasmuson is spending $240,000 on the six sabbaticals.

Courtney Brooke Smith is the Communications Manager for Rasmuson and says the program is a way to give back to communities.

“These really are champions in their respective communities out right,” Brooke Smith said. “To be able to give them a break and a rest so that they can come back refreshed and ready to go, you know, and serve some more, is great.”

It’s not known yet when Ohmer’s four month sabbatical will begin. She said in an e-mail that she hopes to learn more about the details through meetings with the Rasmuson Foundation.

The next deadline to apply for a Rasmuson Foundation Sabbatical is October 1.