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Non-Profit Entrepreneur Helps Gov't Provide Better Services


Michael Mackniak
Founder, Melissa's Project

  Interview Highlights

  • They help people caught in the revolving door cycle of mental illness.
  • The idea of the project started in 1998.
  • In 2002 they were up and running full steam.
  • Before this he was practicing law.
  • He was practicing in the probate court (which had jurisdiction over mental health issues in Connecticut) and kept running into people with mental illnesses who needed help.
  • He believes that our society needs people who are willing and able to take care of people who are in need.
  • It is hard to find people who take on this responsibility and a lot of it falls on young lawyers who get out of law school and are willing to take on these cases.
  • Their project acts as a one-stop to help people with mental illness deal with the programs, bureaucratizes and other problems of daily life.
  • He pitched the idea to everyone he could think of.
  • Everyone said it was a great idea and said go for it.
  • They had 50 clients right off the bat and realized there is not enough money in the existing government programs to pay for all the help that these people needed.
  • A few years later a judge helped him arrange funding from the Courts and the Department of Mental Health to help him continue servicing his clients.
  • LESSON: if you have a good idea you have to get out there and keep talking to people about it and eventually you will share it with the right people who can help.
  • He also committed some of his own dollars to make the idea happen.
  • His organization makes the government offices more efficient in delivery of their services.
  • When the government invests in his group the government saves a lot of money in the long run.
  • You have to continue to get meetings with people so that you are in the right place at the right time.
  • There are problems in getting government money like getting payment on time or getting a continued source of money the following year.
  • His personal motivation is to impact change on a macro level.
  • Bad times create better opportunities.
  • There is a lot of potential in the human services field to make change in the system.
  • You have to be patient.