Hometown Heroes: Pollyanna Higgs

Words by Anna Lee Vaughn | Images by Justin Hunter

Pollyanna Higgs has always had a heart for children.

“I had a lot of child experience with high school babysitting, vacation Bible school, playing the piano, and volunteer teaching through church Sunday school. But in my master’s program at the University of Southern Mississippi, I had a graduate assistantship in the Education Department where I did pre- and post-testing and assessments with Head Start children,” Pollyanna recalls.

These experiences exponentially grew Pollyanna’s love for children and guided her to the job she has held for over thirty years.

Pollyanna grew up in Mississippi in the Delta, and after completing her Master of Science in Education and Psychology, she put down roots in Jasper. She started at the Adam Bishop Center – under the Northwest Alabama Mental Health Center (NWAMHC) – working with the preschool day program, adult outpatient mental illness, and adolescent substance abuse.

NWAMHC offers outpatient services for children and adults with mental illness, serious emotional disturbance, and substance use disorders. Over the past 32 years, NWAMHC has expanded its outpatient and residential services to cover five counties – Walker, Marion, Lamar, Fayette, and Winston – and has worked to build Walker County’s children’s program.

Pollyanna now serves as NWAMHC’s Mental Illness Clinical Director, overseeing around 300 employees in five counties, and working with clients receiving outpatient care, residential services, and attending day treatment programs.

Pollyanna’s daily goal is to ensure good communication amongst all the departments within the organization, while also communicating effectively to the community about what NWAMHC does, specifically for those dealing with mental illness and serious emotional disturbances.

“Children have my heart. I think my favorite group to work with is children dealing with temper tantrums and behavior management. These children are little leaders just waiting to grow up, and they need help understanding their emotions and how they will work in the world,” says Pollyanna. “Everybody has a temper. Everybody feels scared. Everybody feels pain and sadness. And just because you do does not mean anything’s wrong with you.”

Pollyanna believes these children’s problems present an opportunity, and she is dedicated to helping them build a solid emotional foundation, to better fit in, and become successful adults. She says it starts with helping children understand the world and what is expected of them.

Most importantly, Pollyanna wants others to know that anyone seeking treatment is welcomed and will be provided with quality care.

“We see people two to 102-years-old and provide them with what they need related to mental illness, behavioral health, and substance use. We are community mental health, and we are here for whoever needs us.” WL

For more information, contact Pollyanna at pahiggs@nwamhc.com or (205) 302-9069, or visit the Adam Bishop Center at 1105 7th Avenue, Jasper, AL 35501.