“Well, it seemed that many people had the impression through the years that we maintained homes for children,” Dr. Damon told me. “Our thinking was to adopt an identity that would be less confusing.”
The mission of Canopy is to provide important services to families in need, revolving around mental health and emotional issues.
“These issues impact so many kids today,” John said. “it’s the No. 1 issue for pediatric visits, and it’s sobering to reflect that 1 in 5 kids have significant mental health issues. Sadly, of the kids who really need help, 80 percent don’t get the care they need.”
He told me that these sorts of issues are responsible for increasingly greater health-care costs in America, and from a business perspective, he estimates that it accounts for more than 217 million lost workdays per year as a result of its impact on families and their needs.
“The growth in the rate of autism is an alarming and growing concern for all of us,” he said. “Today, the estimates are that 1 in 68 kids are autistic, and even more alarming, the number is 1 in 42 boys.”
Among other things, Canopy maintains four alternate schools for kids who are unable to function in a normal school environment. The organization is quite large, being the largest provider of children’s services of this type in the state, through 20 offices, and with 550 staff members.
“This also impacts Mississippi business in other ways,” he told me. “In fact, there are many families who move out of Mississippi to seek new treatment options for their kids, and that is not good for the Mississippi business community.”
A nonsectarian institution, Canopy annually serves the needs of approximately 15,000 Mississippi families, spread across all 82 counties in the state. They serve children with a diverse array of problems including behavioral health, attention deficit disorders, depression, and others.
“We are truly committed to providing the compassionate care that these kids need to function in daily life,” he said. “In many cases, the kids are impacted from being part of a family that is in itself disfunctional, and as we see it, without help, they don’t have much chance of reaching their full potential as human beings.”
He told me that Canopy would really like to work with the business community in every way possible, because “our work has a direct relevance to business, to education, and to health care.”
“It’s terribly important to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues,” he said. “If we can’t confront our problems head on, we’re never going to solve them.”
Why the name “Canopy,” I asked him.
“To us, it relates to a place of safety, a refuge. Think about this….in many cases, kids in need will make a sort of tent in their rooms and retreat there when things are bad. It’s also like the rain forests, which make a canopy to shelter and protect life.”
John Damon has been committed to helping children through most of his life.
“In my earlier days, I had planned to be a pediatrician,” he said. “But then my heart turned to the kids with mental health issues, and I’ve never looked back.”
Growing up in Jackson, Dr. Damon got his bachelor’s from Mississippi College, then advanced degrees and his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Jackson State, with a residence at UMMC.
He loves kids, and has of his own, two or whom are in college. He first joined MCHS in 1993 and progressed to a position as Chief Operating Officer prior to become CEO 4 years ago.
For further information on Canopy and how they serve Mississippi’s children, visit their website at mycanopy.org.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.