Fund doing good work in honor of John Kivela

In a recent focus group of people aged 18 to 24 in Marquette County, over half of the 77 individuals reported they would likely not seek help for mental illnesses, said Great Lakes Recovery Center Foundation Coordinator Amy Poirier.

The largest barrier, according to 34 survey respondents, was the stigma associated with seeking treatment for mental illness. But 32 of those surveyed said cost of services was the most prohibitive factor in seeking treatment, Poirier said.

The focus group findings are supported by a Psychology Today article published in August, which found that “despite the fact that excellent medications and therapies exist, only about half of people will ever get treatment.”

Poirier said regional efforts through the UP Coalition Network, which represents 14 evidence-based Communities that Care Coalitions dedicated to creating communities in the Upper Peninsula where youth thrive, and the newly implemented John Kivela Legacy Fund are two of several efforts that aim to break the cycle of stigma surrounding mental illness as well as help fill the financial gap for services.

The fund honors Kivela, a former Marquette mayor and city commissioner and state legislative representative, who died by suicide in 2017 after a lengthy battle with alcoholism.

“I think the John Kivela Legacy Fund just helps people pay tribute to a great man and helps to move forward and break the stigma that surrounds mental health and substance abuse,” Poirier told the Journal.

GLRC recently announced that it expended $10,000 from the John Kivela Legacy Fund, which had accrued $22,800 since its inception in 2018, to provide access to care for “those who do not have the ability to afford treatment via the GLRC Compassionate Care Fund,” a press release states.

“There are so many people who need services,” Poirier said. “Whether it’s mental health services, whether it’s substance abuse services, this is one way that we can help give them access.”

On the fund’s website, Kivela’s daughter Shelby writes: “We want part of my dad’s legacy to be that everyone talks more openly about addiction and mental health issues — that people reach out to get help and that the resources they need are available. It means so much to our family that the John Kivela Legacy Fund will be there to help people in the U.P., which is what my dad focused on throughout his life.”

John Kivela was a man who spent his life trying to help those in his community and to make it a better place to live. It’s only fitting that this fund was established in his name to do the same thing. All of us have either struggled with some kind of mental illness ourselves, or know someone else that is struggling, whether it be family or friends.

It’s important for us all to know that help is available to us. This fund is designed to aid against the burden of seeking help when someone finds themself in a dark place, which is exactly what Kivela would have wanted.

More information about fundraising efforts can be found at or’

— The Mining Journal (Marquette)