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COMO Business Times The City Issue July 2024
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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Meckenzie Hayes

Meckenzie Hayes

Manager of Trauma-Informed Employee Care, Missouri Department of Corrections

Not only is Meckenzie’s job really cool, but it is also much-needed in the community and throughout the U.S.

“I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker overseeing a very small team. We assist corrections personnel who have endured occupational trauma during the course of their duties inside Missouri’s prisons and field probation and parole offices,” Meckenzie says. “In addition to overseeing the direct support offered to the department’s approximately 9,000 employees, I also coordinate the department’s peer support program, a group of over 300 specially trained corrections team members who have lived experience and a dedication to helping their fellow team members in need during times of crisis.”

Meckenzie has many goals for the future, which include continuing to work to improve the practices and systems that negatively contribute to first responder trauma.

“I also hope to continue shedding a trauma-informed light on existing areas of work throughout the department. A key area of focus for me in 2023 will be to address the issue of suicide within our department,” she said. “Suicide rates of individuals working in a corrections setting are higher than other first responder professions, and much higher than the general population. With the help of a team, I hope to implement some evidence-based strategies to help combat this serious issue that impacts the corrections industry.”

VanDee Miller says Meckenzie strives to be authentic, kind, passionate, and hardworking, “and she would love to expand the footprint of the trauma team and advocate for the employees she serves.”

VanDee adds, “Meckenzie looks for ways to decrease the stigma on mental health in a culture full of hard expectations. She is dedicated to the staff she serves and is constantly looking at ways to better the services Corrections can offer to its employees.”

Meckenzie gives a lot of credit to her faith.

“Opportunities for me have presented themselves in interesting ways at just the right times, and that doesn’t happen by just sheer happenstance. If I’d have done things my way and on my own time, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am,” she says, adding that it has been interesting and reassuring to see the values of her faith align so closely with the values of her field of work and study. 

Meckenzie has a few favorite quotes that she abides by: “To succeed in life you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.” (That’s a Reba McEntire quote.) “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” (Desmond Tutu).

Age: 35

Fun fact: I’m an unapologetic Reba McEntire fan. Ask me anything… 

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