By Kathleen Swift
SMTO: What led you to this unique career combination?
Community is important to Steve Russ. The focus of his energy is on serving Nevada, Missouri, in an integrated way through his work as pastor of LifeWalk church, a pharmacist and as chairman of the board for Nevada Regional Medical Center.
RUSS: I was a pharmacist from 1986 until 2001. I had an alcohol and drug problem that caused me to lose my license. In 2010, I got my license back, and now I work one day a week as a pharmacist. My employer showed me grace, and I wanted to help other people.
I became a pastor and a drug counselor and focused on support of behavioral health in the Nevada medical community. I served as chaplain for the police and fire departments, and I heard from them how good it is to have in-house mental health facilities in our community.
I became a member of the Nevada Regional Medical Center board in 2009.
SMTO: What unique perspectives did you bring to the board?
RUSS: I believe the board was looking for someone who had a feel for people less fortunate and could also bring a faith aspect to the table. I had violated the trust of the community and was anxious to have the chance to give back to the community in a positive way. Nevada has a long history of mental health care and is attuned to how mental health affects health in general. The community has long-time mental health providers, and the mental health offered by the hospital focuses on the connections between mind and body. I offered a passion for mental health and addiction recovery.
We have new leadership at Nevada Regional Medical Center, and we are excited about new possibilities. As a regional hospital, we are a leader in the community. We want to have a presence in organizations that do good things for the community such as crisis intervention training for our police force. We want to work with Healthy Nevada; the YMCA; city parks and recreation; 3M, our biggest employer; Cottey College and others. We want to collaborate and serve as leaders in the betterment of Nevada.
SMTO: How does your background as a pharmacist help you as a board member?
RUSS: This is my 12th year on the board, and in the beginning, there was a lot to learn. As a pharmacist, I already knew a lot of the medical lingo. Even then, it takes about two years to understand the laws and regulations of health care. My focus is to reduce the walls that keep health care and mental health care separate.
SMTO: How does your role as pastor influence your sense of community?
RUSS: I had served as pastor at First Baptist Church for 11 years when seven of us decided to organize LifeWalk as a non-denominational church. We thought the community could benefit from a different type of church. I believe you aren’t just the church for an hour on Sunday morning. We can’t just go to church; we have to be the church outside the walls of the church building. I want to get people thinking about how we as the church can serve the people in our community. As LifeWalk, we can partner with the community and find ways to work with the organizations already working in the community.