Crisis Center of West Texas picks new executive director

Having worked in nonprofits and with people in crisis for much of her career, Crisis Center of West Texas Executive Director Lorie Dunnam feels ready to take on her new position.
Dunnam had been CEO of Big Spring State Hospital and worked there for 20 years rising up through the ranks from rehab therapist to director of the rehab program and different levels of administration to become CEO in 2013.
After 20 years with the state, she was lured into the private sector but quickly found it wasn’t the best fit for her.
“I was looking for something that fit my administrative skill set, my past history working with people with crisis, but also was in the nonprofit world. For 20 years, I worked with indigent patients. There was no payment, insurance. We didn’t worry about that. All we focused on was good care, whereas when you move into private industry there are other concerns — what insurance they have, those types of things,” Dunnam said.
A mother of three children, Dunnam grew up in Midland. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Houston and a master’s in clinical psychology from the University of Texas Permian Basin.
Dunnam will replace Karen Pieper Hildebrand, who started with the Crisis Center in 2013. Hildebrand is staying on until March because of a number of pending projects.
Dunnam said she went through an extensive vetting process to get the executive director’s job. She first saw the job posted in August 2018 and applied for it at the end of that month. She started about two weeks ago.
“When I saw this job, I thought it would be perfect because it fits my administrative skill set. But also for a long time now I’ve had a very much of a passionate interest in domestic violence and sexual assault,” Dunnam said.
The fact that the Crisis Center doesn’t just respond to emergencies, but offers shelter and education makes a difference to Dunnam, because there are so many misconceptions about domestic violence and sexual assault.
“… I was teaching psycho-social skills to patients; then eventually I ran the psycho-social rehab department (at Big Spring State Hospital), so education is just important. It just fit,” Dunnam said.
In the past year, the Crisis Center has increased its client services.
A total of 541 new clients received services in 2018, compared to 310 in 2017.
There were 21 responses to sexual assault. Dunnam said she would imagine that quite a few go unreported and Midland has the Midland Rape Crisis Center.
The center gave 570 educational presentations in 2018. This is where center staff goes into local schools and offers a program called We Help Ourselves, or WHO, for kindergarten to second grade.
Seventy-one abusers are enrolled in the intervention and prevention classes called reStart, a 34 percent increase compared to last year.
There was a 40 percent increase in sexual assault responses from the Crisis Hotline and a 74 percent increase in new clients served.
Fifty-nine percent of the clients the Crisis Center serves are adults and 41 percent are children.
Eighty percent are women and girls and 20 percent are men and boys.
Presentations offered by the Crisis Center from an educational standpoint are mostly about healthy relationships with the goal of stopping violence, Dunnam said.
The Crisis Center also provides anti-bullying education in elementary schools, teen dating violence and the reStart batterer intervention program for adults.
Coaching Boys into Men is a new program. It’s a partnership between Crisis Center of West Texas and Ector County ISD coaches to introduce a new leadership program for middle and high school boys in Ector County.
It is meant to leverage the existing relationships between coaches and athletes to provide evidence-based prevention education on topics including healthy relationships, leadership and nonviolence, a news release said.
Dunnam said the increase in participation in Crisis Center services has to do with its community outreach and education.
Although she’s only been at the Crisis Center for a short time, Dunnam said she is amazed at what it does.
“I had researched the agency and that type of thing, but I had no idea the breadth of services that we offer with the limited staff that we have. I think that Karen as executive director has done amazing work here. I know that her leaving is going to be a loss for the agency. I hope that I can build on what she’s put in place and continue to collaborate with the community, grow those relationships and increase our services,” Dunnam said.
The Crisis Center has 23 full-time staff members and five part time.
Hildebrand said there are a lot of events coming up that she’s staying on to help with. Her husband moved to Dallas last year for a job.
“We’re in the middle of working on our fifth Dancing with the West Texas Stars event on Feb. 9,” she said.
The open house for the Louise Wood Angel House, the Crisis Center’s new shelter, is scheduled for 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 19, and there are 17 grant applications due in the January-February time frame.
Dunnam said she was “blown away” by the job Hildebrand did, with the help of the community, in raising funds for the new shelter.
“The shelter that we currently have is not meeting our needs and they were able to really just tailor make and hand pick everything to suit all of the needs, so I think it’s amazing. I was wowed. I was really wowed by that when I learned of it because … not currently living in this community I was unaware, so it’s amazing. I’ve toured it. It is going to be beautiful (and) functional. It’s going to be therapeutic; a great, safe, healing environment for these people. Hats off to Karen and this entire community for what they’ve done there because that’s not something you see every day — a project of that scope,” Dunnam said.
Hildebrand said she was glad the search committee picked Dunnam for the executive director’s position.
“She’s got a vast amount of experience. I really feel like it’s going to be in good hands to continue its upward growth and I’ll be heading to Dallas and looking for work there,” said Hildebrand, a native Odessan.
She added that she’ll probably stay in nonprofit.
“I don’t know what field. It’s usually women’s health-related services, so that’s sort of where my heart is; women, girls’ empowerment, that sort of thing. I probably will at least try to find something in one of those areas,” Hildebrand said.