Mary Bakchachyan’s Experience as a Sibling and Former Lanterman Service Coordinator Brings Unique Perspective to Lanterman Board
Possessing a background as a sibling of an older brother with special needs and a former service coordinator at Lanterman, Mary Bakchachyan’s election as a board member brings a unique perspective to the board of directors.
She shares: “When my brother and I came to America as teenagers, I took an active role in helping my family navigate through the various systems to obtain services and supports for my brother. I have a firsthand experience about how families cope, react and deal with the everyday challenges posed by having a family member with special needs.”
After completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology, Bakchachyan worked at Hollygrove, a residential facility, for about a year as a childcare counselor. She worked with abused and neglected children, before taking a social work position with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. After a couple of years there, she came to work at Lanterman in the Foothill School Age Unit.
“The five-plus years that I spent as a service coordinator at Lanterman afforded me a good understanding of how the regional center system operates, as well as the structure of the other social service systems that exist at both the county and state levels,” she says.
Bakchachyan now works as a mental health service coordinator at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. She moved to DMH in September of 2008 where she worked as a research analyst for 10 months before being promoted to the mental health service coordinator position. As a research analyst, she analyzed data that was collected by the outreach and engagement staff who work with underrepresented and/or economically disadvantaged ethnically diverse populations.
She says, “We used to meet with members who are actively involved within their communities to explore what their community’s mental health needs are and how these needs can be met while taking into account cultural issues.” Now, as a service coordinator, Bakchachyan works with LA County Wellness Centers and assists these agencies in helping their clients when they are seeking employment or education. She believes, “Disability or not, everyone enjoys earning a paycheck because it gives them a sense of purpose.” Bakchachyan really enjoys her current position because she, again, gets to help others.
Another area that interests Bakchachyan is ensuring that the rights of people with developmental disabilities are protected. She adds, “As a sibling, I want to make sure that there are safeguards in place to protect against abuse.”
Bakchachyan concludes: “When I worked at Lanterman, I felt that this was my way of giving back to the community that has supported my brother and family, and even though I left, I knew that I still wanted to remain involved with the Center. I’m pleased that I have been given the opportunity to share the knowledge, experience and understanding that I’ve gained personally and professionally and hope to make a positive impact on the Lanterman community through my work on the board.”