Life Lessons in the Garden

Collard greens and kale

Collard greens and kale ready for picking, with Garry hard at work in the SHS garden in the background.

The sun was beaming on the Swope Health Services gardens at mid-morning as the gardeners began assembling to plan out the day’s work.

The gardeners are all members of the adult Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program (CPRP), along with Lenise James, Community Support Specialist.

Today’s tasks involved examining the crops already planted and then preparing two beds: one for sweet potatoes and one for zucchini.

Gardening empowers the participants, giving them specific tasks and focus.

Participants follow their interests: Garry takes a shovel and makes short work of preparing the bed for planting; Antwan, who aspires to be a herpetologist, inspects the garden for bugs – he finds earthworms, grubs and a caterpillar and he’s happy there are no signs of Japanese beetles. Stephan relishes the task of harvesting collard greens.

About 15 individuals in the CPRP participate in the gardening activity two or three days a week, weather permitting.

They plan for three seasons, rotating crops in the eight beds, and then they take care of watering, weeding and generally nurturing the plants to harvest.

Sweet potatoes

Abera Kelecho shows Lorena and Stephan how to plant sweet potatoes.

“We have a good time,” Lenise says, with her gardeners nodding in agreement. The gardens are a tangible expression of caring and nurturing, raising up tiny seedlings, and ultimately, cooking and eating the bounty that comes from the plants.

“It’s a little like raising children,” said Clarence, a program participant. “They start out so small and helpless, and then before you know it, they’re teenagers and young adults and ready to go on.”

This year’s garden program included a class on tomatoes, presented by the Kansas City Community Garden, and hands-on experience in planting and tending vegetables and herbs. Lenise notes it also gives some of the members a chance to teach the others. Some have experience and enjoy sharing memories and insights with others.

Abera Kelecho, case manager, joins the group this morning to help with planting sweet potatoes.  There’s plenty of lively chatter as he demonstrates how to separate the tender plants and prepare them for planting.

Lorena and zucchini

Lorena carefully positions the seedling zucchini in the garden.

Novice gardener Lorena listens intently and follows the guidance, earning praise from Abera.

“When I started, I didn’t want to touch the dirt,” she said. “Now I love it.”

The garden gives the group a chance to plan for the future as well as remember the past. Every year, the team dedicates a memorial to honor fellow gardeners who recently passed away.

This year’s memorial will be a large planter, filled with healthy and thriving herbs. The herbs will join the other plants when harvested in creating meals like collards and cornbread.

“They are so delicious,” Clarence said. Soon the team was busy recalling past meals from the garden while making suggestions for the next one.

Six members of the CPRP team, led by Sonya Bolden-Oakley, Supervisor, support the partnership that produces and manages the garden.

Co-leads are Lenise and Mark McIlroy, an experienced gardener and community support specialist.  The program is also supported with a grant from Kansas City Community Gardens.



Additional photos provided by Rosie, a program participant, showing the fruits of the 2017 garden: watermelon, tomatoes ripening on the vine, collard greens and peppers

Swope Health Earns New Certification in Federal Program, Expands Behavioral Health Access and Services

Quietly, after more than a year’s worth of planning, Swope Health Services launched a transformational program to improve access to mental health services.

SHS Behavioral Health is now a designated Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. SHS is one of 15 agencies in Missouri named to participate in a two-year demonstration project, directed by the federal government. There are a total of eight states participating.

The point of the demonstration project? To make it easier for the community to access a broad spectrum of behavioral health services.

“This is all about giving our patients easier access to new services,” said Mark Miller, SHS Vice President of Behavioral Health. “Our goal was to make it seamless, so patients wouldn’t have any disruption in care. Instead, they now see more things they didn’t know they could get from us.”

For example, some of the differences patients can see are:

  • reception area

    As part of the new designation as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, SHS opened a new Behavioral Health Children’s Services Clinic. The center offers new services for children in a newly renovated space.

    The Behavioral Health Children’s Services Clinic at SHS Central, a new space that integrates children’s psychiatric services, therapies and programs, with added security in separation from adult programs. The new space features a bright lobby and reception area, a community conference room, children’s play area plus access to all the children’s services. This new space opened Jan. 16, 2018.

  • A new service focused on Children’s Substance Abuse.
  • The new Opioid Clinic, launched in Fall 2017.
  • A new program focused on Hospital Discharge Coordination. In this program, SHS undertakes outreach to hospitals to coordinate transition of care for SHS patients.
  • Enhanced staffing, with the addition of three new Children’s Therapists, five new Care Coordinators and other positions behind the scenes.

Some of the biggest changes actually are occurring behind the scenes, Miller noted.

For example, one part of the new CCBHC program revises the entire financial model, moving from charging a fee for every service to a single rate that covers all the services a patient chooses.

There is an emphasis on value, making sure clients are receiving as much support as they need.

“This model gives us a little more freedom to support our clients,” Miller said. “We’ve enhanced both the quality of care and the access to care.”

CCBHC infogrph

Credit: Center On Integrated Health Care & Self-Directed Recovery

SHS has been operating under this new model for about six months, and is reviewing data from the program to assess performance.

The Behavioral Health team is using the data to guide changes and where needed, make additions to the programs.

“With the new qualitative data, we’ve had some ‘a-ha’ moments,” Miller said. For example, based on data, the team has reorganized some functions and realigned some services for maximum impact.

“We are becoming more savvy in decision-making and understanding the impact of our decisions through the data,” he said. “The data helps us respond to community needs and guides how we solve problems.”

Since this is a pilot program, SHS is in a position of leadership to influence the ultimate design of the program. It’s expected that this program will be rolled out across the state.

This experience gives SHS the opportunity to influence related and complementary programs, such as those run by Jackson County or Kansas City, while also expanding access to quality Behavioral Health programs.

“We’re ahead of the curve,” Miller said. “We’ve enhanced the access to our care and we’ve enhanced the quality of our care.”

Shiny, Sparkling New Facilities Unveiling at SHS

Open HouseAt long last, the dust is settling at Swope Health Services as three major renovation projects are coming to completion.

  • Behavioral Health Children’s Services

The north side of the second floor of building B at Central Facility is now home to an integrated Children’s Services Center. The new center is securely separated from adult services, and includes room for new services.

The total renovation of the 5,200-square-foot area cost $300,000, and took about four months of intense construction.

The project included creation of a new lobby and reception area, a community conference room, a “grand room” for groups of 30, a children’s playroom, two new treatment rooms, three new provider offices and a much-needed storage room. Additional renovation upgraded the staff breakroom, cubicles and hallways.

The result is bright and lively, full of vibrant colors.

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The new playroom in the Childrens’ Services Center is packed with games and toys in a fun space.

“It’s a friendly and welcoming environment,” said Josette Mitchell, Director of the Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program. “That’s by design. If you feel good about where you go, that’s an aid to the healing process.”

The project was designed by Bell/Knott & Associates Architects of Leawood, Kansas, and construction was performed by Purdum Construction of Overland Park, Kansas.

Mark your calendars for the Grand Opening: 8 a.m. Friday, March 30.

  • Pediatrics/OB-GYN Expansion

Debbie Meads, Program Manager, shuffled departments and clinics for about a year to make room for a vastly expanded Pediatrics and OB-GYN service area.

In Pediatrics, there are now 15 treatment rooms, up from 10. The Obstetrics clinic grew from nine rooms to 23, with space to support seven providers.

“The new spaces are designed for improved efficiency and workflow,” Debbie noted, “and include better infection control procedures for testing, easier access to weight stations, and new Neonatal Stress Testing rooms.”

Some of the additions in OB-GYN – like wall-mounted vital signs monitors – speed up examinations, as medical assistants no longer have to wheel in mobile units. Plus, the readings from the monitors now flow directly into the patient’s electronic medical records, reducing potential for errors in transcribing the data.

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The Pediatrics team in one of the new exam rooms.

“It’s faster for the staff and that means faster care for the patients, too,” Debbie said.

Dr. Kenneth Thomas, Chief Medical Officer and Pediatrician, said: “It’s a beautiful place for kids – full of healthy, educational and creative themes to stimulate kids’ minds and creativity and build strong habits.”

But, he added, “The beauty is just a bonus – the most important thing is how we’ve expanded.

We now have the capacity to see more patients and provide a higher level of service. We want to be a place our patients are proud to come to, a place our patients want to be.”

The final phases of construction are wrapping up this month.

This project was supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number C8DCS29675 Renovation of SHS-Central Pediatrics & OB/GYN Clinics with an award of $1 million with $800,000 financed with nongovernmental sources.

The project encompassed 12,955 square feet, or about 10 percent of the entire Central facility. The design work was completed by Garcia Architecture LLC of Kansas City, and Purdum Construction handled construction.

The Pediatrics and OB-GYN Grand Opening will be at 8 a.m. Friday, May 11.

  • Imani House Renovation
Facilities (2)

The new computer lab at Imani House.

SHS’s Imani House is a freestanding facility for substance abuse treatment, just behind SHS Central, at 3950 E. 51st St. The 10,733-square-foot facility was updated from top to bottom in this project, which began in 2016 and cost more than $655,000.

There are two new group rooms, a conference room and a new six-station computer lab. There’s also a workout space, plus all new offices and remodeled group meeting spaces throughout.

“These renovations, along with new programming, have shifted the atmosphere into one clients and associates alike can be proud of,” said Andrea Buford, Director of Clinical Operations, Behavioral Health.

“This aids in our goal to make Imani House the premiere treatment facility of choice in Kansas City.”

The project was designed by Bell/Knott & Associates Architects with construction performed by Purdum Construction.

The finishing touches will await warmer weather – that’s when the new landscaping will be added, just in time for the grand opening.

The Imani House Grand Opening will be 8 a.m. Friday, April 20.

Please add these dates to your calendars and plan to join us to see the changes for yourself.

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The OB-GYN team in their new workroom.


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One of the new conference rooms at Imani House.


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There’s bright and whimsical artwork throughout the new Pediatrics clinic.


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An example of the built-in vital signs monitors in the new Ob/Gyn clinic exam rooms.


Help for Opioid Addiction at SHS

Dr Reddy

Dr. Nallu Reddy is in SHS’s new induction room for medication-assisted treatment of opioid addiction.

Swope Health Services is launching a new program to provide medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.

The program addresses the increasing need for focused medical assistance in breaking the cycle of addiction to pain relievers, whether prescription or illicit drugs.

“There is an opioid epidemic across the country,” said Mark Miller, Vice President of Behavioral Health Services. Nationally, 90 people die every day from opioid overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And, the American Society of Addiction Medicine estimates that about 2.5 million Americans are addicted to opioids.

The Kansas City metro area ranks roughly in the middle of the pack in opioid prescriptions and concentration, as measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We recognize this is a crisis and people are dying,” said Dr. Nallu Reddy, SHS Chief of Psychiatry. “Our number one goal is to help people stay alive.”

Supported by state and federal grants, the new SHS program will offer suboxone, a prescription medication (also known as naloxone), which helps patients manage an opioid addiction by blocking the opioid receptors in the body.

Anyone who is struggling with opioid addiction resulting from either prescription pain medications or illegal narcotics like heroin is welcome to contact SHS Behavioral Services at our Central Facility (3801 Blue Parkway, Kansas City, Mo.). Walk-in hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or you can call 816-922-1070 for an appointment. These services may be covered by insurance.

To be admitted to the program, a patient must be healthy enough to take the opioid-blocking medication, willing to adhere to program requirements and committed to the initial two- or three-day induction process. The medication-assisted treatment is complemented by therapy, counseling and transportation services as well.

SHS has three medical doctors certified and licensed to provide the special medication-assisted treatment. Patients are expected to stay in the program for a month and then be assessed for next steps in treatment. Each patient receives an individual treatment plan – some patients may be tapered off the medication and others may need continued access to the medication.

Some background:

  • What are opioids? Broadly, the term covers prescription pain relievers, including the synthetic drug fentanyl, as well as illegal drugs like heroin.
  • How did we get to an opioid crisis? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the problems began in the 1990s with the pharmaceutical companies marketing of prescription opioid pain relievers. Providers began prescribing them more at greater rates until it became clear in opioid overdose deaths that the drugs were highly addictive.
  • How bad is it? It’s the deadliest drug crisis in American history. The New York Times reported: “Overdoses killed more people last year than guns or car accidents, and are doing so at a pace faster than the H.I.V. epidemic at its peak.”
  • How do we address the crisis? Nationally, new programs promote greater access to treatment and recovery, and availability of overdose-reversing drugs. Just this summer, the state of Missouri began the creation of a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.

If you have questions about the program or opioid addiction, contact SHS Behavioral Services at the SHS Central Facility at 816-923-5800. Walk-in hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Building Awareness: Zero Suicide Initiative Comes To SHS

ZeroSuicideThe Zero Suicide Initiative is a commitment to suicide prevention in medical and behavioral healthcare systems. It emerged from the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention Commission and is supported by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA).

The initiative promotes the belief that suicide deaths for people under care are preventable. The goal of zero suicides among persons receiving care is ambitious, yet it is a goal many health systems aspire to achieve.

Nicole James, Crisis Team Specialist, leads the effort to implement Zero Suicide practices at SHS. The Zero Suicide approach is about improving the care for individuals at risk of suicide in healthcare systems. It represents a commitment to patient safety, and also to the safety of clinical staff, who treat and support suicidal patients.

“It’s about building awareness system-wide,” Nicole said. “It’s going to take some education about how to identify suicidal behaviors and react effectively.”

One key component of the initiative is increasing the engagement of the entire community, especially suicide attempt survivors, family members, policy makers and clinical staff.

The initiative uses a “toolkit” of practices in identification of suicidal behaviors, training effective responses, engaging support, and providing treatment.

Additional Resources:

How Resilient Are You?

ResilientKCYou know how some people seem to be capable of facing whatever life brings? That’s what it means to be resilient.

Not everyone has the same ability to bounce back from adversity or trauma. Science has proven that some adverse childhood experiences can damage self-esteem and willingness to bounce back. And, the more adverse experiences a person has during their childhood,  the more likely their risk for negative health outcomes later in life like diabetes, heart disease, alcoholism, drug use, depression, obesity and cancer, to name a few.

But there’s also evidence of good news. We are all capable of learning skills to develop resiliency.

That’s the focus of a new program, Resilient KC, a partnership between Trauma Matters KC and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.  Resilient KC is collecting Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resiliency scores from people in Greater Kansas City, now through the end of June 2017.

If you are 18 years or older, you can help develop the area’s Resilience Score by participating in a survey about adverse childhood experiences (ACE). By collecting ACE data from the Kansas City region, the program will be better able to provide more resources for people who need help.

“As we continue to learn more about adverse childhood experiences, we understand how they truly impact us into adulthood,” said Jasmin Williams, Project Coordinator for Resilient KC. “Resilience skills can help children and adults overcome adversities. Everyone can learn how to develop greater resiliency. ”

Here are three ways you can participate and learn about your own resilience.

1.Take the survey. Your anonymous answers will be combined with others from adults in the KC region, and with results from 14 other cities across the nation. This study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson and Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, will provide data to guide development of new resources and support in the community. You’ll receive a score from the survey and information to understand what the score means.

2.Come to the Resiliency Rally, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 13 at Arrowhead Stadium, to find resiliency resources and learn resiliency skills. This event is organized by Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, along with Sesame Street in Communities, Healthy KC, the Black Community Fund, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, REACH Healthcare Foundation, RideKC, Cornerstones of Care and the Truman Medical Centers.

This family-focused event is free, and includes free food, music and activities. Free transportation is offered from the Don Boscoe Community Center, Greg Klice Community Center and Southeast Community Center, starting at 9:30 a.m. and every half-hour until 1:30 p.m. The last return shuttle from Arrowhead leaves at 2:30 p.m.

The rally features Cookie Monster, from Sesame Street. The first 50 people to attend will get a Sesame Street plush toy and the first 100 will get a free T-shirt.

“We’re expecting a large and diverse community turnout,” Williams said. “We want everyone to get connected to resources and services you can take home and use.”

More than 50 organizations will participate – including the SHS Outreach & Enrollment team. The different organizations offer tools and skills to help parents work with children with experiences involving incarceration, divorce and grief, as well as overall health and wellness.

3. Share your story in the “Our Stories Matter” campaign. You can participate by sharing your personal story on Facebook, Twitter (@ResilientKC) or LinkedIn. Sharing real-life experiences helps raise awareness of the impacts of adversities and trauma on the greater community. It also encourages sharing coping skills and developing ways to build personal resilience.

The SHS Outreach & Enrollment team  will be at the Resiliency Rally, sharing information and giveaways. Come talk with us at the Rally!

#ShareYourTruth: It’s OK to Get Help

Mental Health AwarenessGreen is the color of springtime and hope. That’s why you’ll be seeing it just about everywhere during the week of May 1-5 at Swope Health Services as we celebrate Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

This national recognition is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. The agency’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

“We want to remove the stigma of seeking help,” said Kortney Carr, Director of Children’s Behavioral Health Services. “We want to spread the word about what we can do to help with depression, anxiety, fitting in and being comfortable in your own skin.”

For the third consecutive year, the Children’s Behavioral Health Services team has sponsored a full week of activities to help raise awareness and spread the word, said Ashley Daniels, Community Support Supervisor and part of the committee organizing the week’s events.

“Our lineup is bigger than ever,” said Ashley. “We’re excited to share information and encourage others to help spread the word.”

Indeed, we encourage anyone participating in the week or in the SHS-sponsored activities to use the hashtag #ShareYourTruth on the various social media platforms

Ashley Daniels

Ashley Daniels, Community Support Supervisor, orchestrated the events for Children’s Mental Health Awareness week. Some of the items available include green ribbons, wristbands, pencils and a variety of buttons.

Want to participate? Here’s the lineup of events:

Monday, May 1: Stop by the information tables in the main lobby of Swope Health Central for a chance to meet members of the Children’s Behavioral Health Services staff. You can pick up information on mental health and buy buttons, stickers and green ribbons to commemorate the week. All proceeds will be used to buy supplies for Children’s Behavioral Health activities.

Tuesday, May 2, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.: Join in a celebration with families of children in SHS programs. You’ll find refreshments and festivities in the activity room in Building C. Participants will get a “passport” to visit a series of tables operated by SHS and community support agencies including the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), Solace House Center for Grief and Healing and Aim4Peace, a Kansas City public health program. Participants who get stamps from all the tables are entered into a drawing for prizes.

The evening program includes “Shining Star” Awards and Success Stories, followed by The Battery Tour. This local band is fronted by the artist AY who performs in a personal and expressive style, emphasizing connections with his audience. The band will lead a discussion before performing.

Wednesday, May 3, Noon: Youth Mental Health Awareness Committee Members will create and distribute cards with positive messages and special green stickers to help raise awareness.

Thursday, May 4, is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Join in the Parent Workshop from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. with families enrolled in SHS programs. The workshop features activities in parenting, emphasizing self-care and resiliency, how to redirect and reward, and other interpersonal tools and skills. The program includes separate activities for kids. Refreshments will be served.

Friday, May 5: Come celebrate with us at the Kansas City Public Library at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, 3050 Prospect Ave., and the Southeast Branch, 6242 Swope Parkway. From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., you can meet with SHS staff and learn about our programs as well as examine selected books from the branches to support self-care and awareness of behavioral health for children and adults.

The week’s activities align with national programs focusing on the importance of integrating behavioral health and primary care for children, youth, and young adults with mental health or substance abuse disorders. Come join us – and plan on wearing green!

Would you like more information on our Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Programs for children or adults? Please stop by or schedule an appointment at 816-825-6099.

SHS Peer Group Supports Chronic Disease Self-Management


From left, Dr. Patty Rebeck with peer counselors Stephanie Greer and Tyrone Ferguson at a recent counseling meeting.

Sometimes, we all need a little help from a friend.

With that idea in mind, SHS Health Care Home for Primary Care has launched a Peer Advisory Group to provide support for patients learning to manage a chronic disease.

The group meets 1:30 to 3 p.m. every Thursday in the Building C office of Dr. Patricia Rebeck, licensed clinical psychologist and Behavioral Health Consultant. The meetings are open to any adult patients enrolled in Health Care Home for Primary Care.

“We’re inviting patients to come in and talk with people who’ve been in their shoes,” Dr. Rebeck said. “Our peer advisers are willing to share what they’ve been through. Their testimonials have more impact than I could.”

The discussions might cover topics like taking medications regularly, changing to a healthier diet or developing – and sticking with – an exercise plan. The program is designed to support patients dealing with diabetes, obesity, asthma and other chronic conditions or diseases.

“If you see that others can do it, you are more likely to believe that you can, too,” Dr. Rebeck said.

Peer counseling is not a new idea. It is well established that we rely upon recommendations and advice from peers, believing that we see a reflection of ourselves in others like us, Dr. Rebeck said. Brittney Hazley and Joan Uta of Health Care Home-Primary Care also support the peer counseling programs as part of the array of services available.

The program launched last fall, just after a similar program for ex-prison inmates achieved a milestone of success.

In that program, former inmates gather to provide support to others who are re-entering society. The group named itself “Focus and Refocus,” which is a kind of code for how participants can control their thinking and support each other to maintain a positive perspective.

The group developed a website and a brochure, part of a larger mission to share their voices with the community. One member of the group, Tyrone Ferguson, delivered a presentation titled “How We Want You to Help Us,” to 215 attendees at the Missouri Corrections Association/Missouri Probation & Parole Officers Association conference in September at the Lake of the Ozarks.

“This is a testament to self-efficacy,” said Dr. Rebeck. “There’s power in believing in yourself and in seeing others believe in you.”

Dr. Rebeck noted that the peer advisory discussions are informal and down-to-earth. One patient was discouraged by obesity, which made her feel ugly and unwilling to be seen in public. But in one meeting, she learned that others in the group found her interesting, and that gave her “a burst of willingness” to try to live, Dr. Reback said.

“Our members each care about helping others,” she said.  “It helps you take care of yourself when you know you have value. We all need a reason to get up in the morning.”

Learn more about the Focus and ReFocus support group at its website. Or contact SHS at (816) 922-1070).

Focus graphic


A New Location to Serve You: Announcing Swope Health Maple Woods!

Swope Health Services is expanding again!

You’re invited to join us for the ribbon-cutting celebration to open our newest clinic, Swope Health Maple Woods, at the Northland Human Services Building, 3100 N.E. 83rd St., Suite 101, Kansas City, Mo.

The celebration is hosted by the Northland Chamber of Commerce at 4 p.m., Thursday, April 13. Light refreshments will be served and the facility will be open for tours.

Northland Human Services BuildingThe new facility will be open Tuesdays, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., inside the Tri-County Mental Health Clinic.

With two exam rooms and a lab, SHS Maple Woods will offer Tri-County clients treatment for acute and chronic illnesses, physical examinations for adults, preventive health education, laboratory services, pregnancy testing, prenatal care and family planning.

“We anticipate this primary care clinic will serve as a model for others to help break down the barriers that have prevented mental health consumers from receiving appropriate and timely medical care,” said Mark Miller, Vice President of SHS Behavioral Services.

Integrating primary care directly into a mental health center will ensure patients receive a holistic continuum of care on site. SHS and Tri-County expect the clinic to support improved preventive care and disease management and, ultimately, reduce acute hospitalizations.

In addition to the on-site services, SHS clinicians will be able to refer patients for dental care, medical procedures and specialists, if needed, said Kenneth Thomas, M.D., SHS Chief Medical Officer.

Tri-County Mental Health opened in 1990 providing comprehensive behavioral health services to nearly 400,000 people in Clay, Platte and Ray counties.

ReceptionExam Room 2

It’s Time to Applaud, Appreciate and Thank Our Social Workers

stand upThe National Association of Social Workers has named March as Social Work Month, giving us all a chance to recognize and applaud the services of social work professionals.

Given how broad the term “social work” is, we thought this would be a good time to learn more about the role some social workers play here at SHS.

“It’s such a broad field,” said Kortney Carr, Director of Children’s Services at SHS. “That’s both a blessing and a curse.”

The “blessing” is the wide range of opportunity areas for social work: healthcare, mental health, government, military, schools, universities, social service agencies, community organizations. The “curse” is in that same broad variety of services, making it hard to quickly define the field of social work.

“We’re helpers,” Kortney said. “We’re focused on decreasing symptoms that are causing impairments for our patients. We work directly with clients to help them access the services they need.”

What are those services? It could be therapy and healthcare, housing and transportation resources, training and education. Social workers help people who are experiencing illnesses or mental health crises; suffering abuse, neglect or trauma; or facing poverty and other roadblocks to daily living. Social workers’ services are covered by insurance, Medicaid and state and county programs.

social workersJosette Mitchell, Director of Adult Community Services, notes that a big part of the job is advocacy. That can mean making sure the policies and procedures meet the needs of the clients, including weighing in on state and federal programs and providing feedback to legislators and policy makers.

Other times, advocacy can mean going to bat for a specific client – perhaps seeking appropriate medication or helping gain access to needed services. It can involve teaching, coaching and consultations, to help clients build their own toolbox of skills and resources, added Kortney.

Social workers obtain extensive education and training, Josette notes. They are licensed by the state and credentialed by the National Association of Social Workers Credentialing Center. Social workers are required to participate in 30 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain credentials in Missouri.

There are about 50 social workers at SHS and more than 650,000 across the U.S. By standing up for the vulnerable, social workers play an important role in creating healthy communities.

“Every day, we’ll drop everything to do whatever needs to be done,” Kortney said. “We’re here to help. We’re helpers.”

In this month for recognition of social work, we invite you to join us in applauding, appreciating and thanking social workers. At SHS, our professional social workers support clients in behavioral health, pediatrics, OB/GYN, outreach, homeless outreach, residential services and Imani House departments.