Dr. Kehoe is a pioneer in the mental health field. Thirty years ago she identified the unmet spiritual needs of individuals with mental illness. Nancy was the first professional to recognize that spiritual issues in this psychiatric setting were being either entirely ignored or misinterpreted as pathology. She began a spiritual issues group that is now famous as the first of its kind in this country. This prototype has been imitated countless times throughout the mental health field, and often referred to in the psychiatric literature.
For ten years, she worked with the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division in the following programs: inpatient services, children and adolescent services, day hospital, residential programs and community outreach programs. This work has led the County to develop a standard intake assessment on spiritual issues and to incorporate spirituality groups throughout the system. It has also transformed the staff, making them aware of this area of mental health work, empowering them as both service providers and as individuals with their own personal stories.
Her work at Milwaukee County is a model for the way in which a county system can completely change its approach to the ways it incorporates spirituality and religion in the treatment of those who suffer with serious mental illness. In addition to the benefit this has been for the patients, the work has also benefited the staff, creating a sense of community and purpose in those who work in such a demanding environment.