Swope Health’s Employment Service helps find “Dream Jobs” for clients

In March 2017, Swope Health started a new employment program for clients with the support of the State of Missouri’s Vocational Rehabilitation Service. In the first year, the program successfully placed 55 clients.

IPS Supported Employment

Swope Health Employment Service

The Swope Health Employment Services team, from left, is Janelle Strozier, Brandon Ford, Ron Knisley, Kelli Fisher, and LaShelle Ross. Kelli is the supervisor for the team of four employment specialists.

The program, called IPS Supported Employment, helps people with behavioral health conditions find competitive employment. The IPS in the name stands for “Individualized Placement Support,” meaning the program assists with finding a position that aligns specifically with the client’s needs and preferences.

Kelli Fisher, Swope Health Employment Services Supervisor, said the process starts with a referral from a case manager. If a client’s care plan includes an employment goal, the client is directed to the program.

“If a client wants to work, we work with them to find a job,” she said.

The team works under a rapid placement approach, typically getting a client in a position within 60 days – far faster than some job programs that can take months.

The Process

When a client is referred, a member of the employment services team meets with them to develop a vocational profile. The client identifies at least three areas of employment they are interested in – retail, construction, administrative functions, environmental services, food service, health care, etc.

The next step is a meeting with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation, to get approval for joining the state’s program. Clients are required to provide two forms of Identification such as a Missouri I.D., birth certificate, social security card or a passport. With approvals in place, the Swope Health team works to make the client’s goals a reality.

“The best is when a client says, ‘This would be my dream job,’” said Ron Knisley, Employment Specialist with Swope Health. “We call that ‘job carving’ when they can identify the perfect fit. We love that. It gets us excited to make it happen. We like the thrill of the chase.”

Ron notes the team has successfully placed clients in dream jobs: one who wanted to be around animals now works in a veterinarian’s clinic. Another client who enjoyed the open road found a job driving a truck.  Others have found dream jobs in administrative office work and as a hostess at a local restaurant.

The team helps the client prepare for the job search – using work history to build a resume, write a cover letter, and get ready for the first interviews.

The program can also provide some financial support, like funding for gas cards or bus passes, or clothing for the interview. If the client gets the job, the support can continue – buying a uniform or helping with necessary certifications or licensing fees.

Program Expansion

The early success of the program is leading to expansion. The team now has four employment specialists, each working with up to 25 clients at a time.

Kelli said the four team members use their own network of contacts and relationships with area employers to find full-time or part-time positions for clients. That network now has a multitude of employer contacts, and many of them reach out to Swope Employment first when they have an open employment opportunity.

The client support doesn’t end with the job placement. The support may include attending orientation with the client and helping sign up for benefits, or following up with the employer and client after a week on the job. It might entail coaching or providing feedback to improve job performance, or help with financial planning. Ron noted the team provides ongoing support for up to one year after placement.

When it works, the good feelings spread to everyone: the employer, client and the team.

“It is absolutely priceless to see someone get their first paycheck ever,” Ron said. “We see their confidence go from zero to 50 all at once. What a difference a job makes.”

Sharing healthcare expertise across cultures.

Swope Health Hosts Nursing Students from Japan

Swope Health hosted a group of nursing students from St. Luke’s International University in Tokyo, Japan.

Japanese nursing graduate students recently visited Swope Health to learn more about how we care for our homeless patients.

Rachel Melson, Nurse Practitioner in the Outreach Department, led the students on a tour of Swope Health’s Central facility, highlighting the array of medical and behavioral health services we make available to all of our patients, including our homeless clients.

Rachel explained that the homeless community generally lacks access to medical care, so they receive less preventive care and fewer screenings, and generally face worse outcomes in hospitalizations than the general population. Chronic illness, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, are common diagnoses, along with substance abuse and mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis and depression.

The students took notes throughout and asked questions.

Some of the questions were about registration procedures (How do you know a patient’s income?), some were medical (What is PCP?) and some were political (How has healthcare changed under President Trump?). The most intriguing questions were personal: Why do you do this? What is most important to you?

“Our goal is for people to leave healthier than when they came in,” Rachel said. “It’s all about connecting. If I give someone a medication but don’t make a connection, we’re not helping. It’s about making a connection and meeting the patients wherever they are, addressing whatever they need.”

The students are training for nursing professions in public health settings.

Swope Health Hosts Nursing Students from Japan

Teamwork: Learning with Lemons and Zucchini

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The recipe for Lemon Zucchini Bread

It was a steamy morning with thunderstorms looming, but the kitchen in the activity room at Swope Health Services was full of warmth and anticipation.

Today, instead of working in the SHS garden, a group of participants in the adult Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program (CPRP) were following the directions of Lenise James, Community Support Specialist.

On this day, the participants in the Power, Hope and Recovery Program (PHRP) would put their skills to use in trying out a recipe for Zucchini Lemon Bread.

The ingredients were laid out on the table, along with bowls and utensils like a lemon zester, a juicer, measuring spoons and cups, whisks, spoons and spatulas.

There was a flurry of activity as each of the five participants tried out a new tool for the first time – a Salad Shooter. Lenise demonstrated its use first, explaining how it works and how the resulting shredded zucchini will provide moisture in the cake.

Each one took a turn using the shooter, feeding a chunk of zucchini and watching it transform into shreds. Each one showed the next how to use it, adding tips to help. It was a simple thing, each helping the other, all learning together.

The lessons were practical and immediately put to use, but they also resonate as lessons everyone can use throughout the day – be kind, help each other.

“I love cooking, I absolutely love this,” said Brenda, one of the participants. “It’s so much fun.” Antwan suggested they make pesto next week, to use up the last of the basil planted out in their gardens. Others recalled a delicious cornbread from a previous cooking day.

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The Salad Shooter produces shredded zucchini.

Step by step, Lenise and the team put together the ingredients, first the wet ingredients, then the dry, then the two mixed together. Brenda adeptly juiced the lemons, while Rosie took control of the zesting duties.

“This is really good for taking out your frustrations,” Rosie said at one point, surveying the mound of lemon zest that had accumulated after she muscled through the lemon skin all the way to the fruit.

When she was advised to use a lighter touch, she replied, “I can’t help it if I’m strong.” But she tried again, and this time did it more slowly and gently.  The results were perfect.

As the aroma of the lemon zest wafted through the kitchen, Lenise demonstrated how to properly measure the dry ingredients using measuring cups and spoons.

Deborah carefully measured her dry ingredients — flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda – checking to make sure she added the right amount each time. Orlando did the same with his batch.

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Brenda has some fun working the Salad Shooter.

After Deborah’s batter was completely mixed and scooped into the loaf pan, she moved to start the dishwashing. “I like to do the dishes,” she said, “it’s better to clean up as you go.”

The program teaches practical skills, like measuring and following instructions in a recipe, but it also emphasizes life skills – listening, sharing, patience, kindness.  Working together, there is an accomplishment at the end of the session: a jar of pickles, a loaf of bread, a meal.

Once again this year, the adult CPRP program is offering participants “Eat Well on $4/Day, Good and Cheap,” by Leanne Brown, an acclaimed book that focuses on removing barriers from good nutrition. The book offers recipes and techniques to help make tasty food on a strict budget, aligned with the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The adult CPRP program, directed by Sonia Bolden-Oakley, supervisor, also runs the SHS gardening program, which produces cucumbers, pepper, potatoes, zucchini, herbs and more. This year, the garden added a peach tree, which Richard, a long-time participant, named Tummy. Why? “Because those peaches will be in everyone’s tummy,” he joked.

And as for the Lemon Zucchini Bread?



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Assembly of the wet ingredients.



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Measuring out the dry ingredients.


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Putting together the wet and dry ingredients to make a stiff batter.


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The finished batter, in loaf pans, ready for baking in the oven.


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Clean-up is part of every exercise. Here, Deborah takes on the dishwashing.


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Pickles, from an earlier cooking class.


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The Zucchini bread, fresh from the oven.

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A close-up of the moist, lemony zucchini bread.

Raising the Bar for Patient Safety: New Sterile Processing Department


As part of their training, SHS associates visited the Sterile Processing Department at North Kansas City Hospital. Here they are in the Decontamination Room where full Personal Protective Equipment (called PPE) is required to minimize the risk of exposure to hazards. From left, Debbie Meads, Program Manager; Veronica Sosa, Medical Assistant; Chris Roseberry, Clinic Manager; Sherry Rider, Medical Assistant

Swope Health Services has launched a state-of-the-art sterile processing area at Central and Wyandotte locations.

The new Sterile Processing department is similar to centers housed in large hospitals.

The purpose is to assure patient safety in the decontamination of all reusable instruments used in medical and dental procedures.

“We’re raising the bar for community health centers,” said Debbie Meads, program manager, who directed the construction of the department.

The project involved changes to the Central clinic environment, water and air handling, as well as to the transportation and storage of instruments.

The project also included an education plan for all associates who work with reusable instruments and special training for about 10 associates in proper disinfection and sterilization of reusable instruments.

These associates now serve as sterilization processing technicians.

“Other than handwashing, sterilization is the next most important thing to consider in infection control,” said Kenneth Thomas, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and a practicing pediatrician.

“It is vital to make sure our instruments are sterile, and how we handle and clean contaminated equipment is just as important. It’s important to the safety of our patients, associates and families.”

Prior to the development of the Sterile Processing areas, equipment was sterilized in autoclaves or small steam chambers in various clinics.

The new department creates greater efficiency and assures consistent practice in the decontamination and sterilization of all materials, under the same standards, every day.

“Our program is important in delivering excellent patient care,” said Dr. Thomas. “It demonstrates our commitment to reducing and controlling infection.”


A peek inside the new Sterile Processing Department on the second floor at SHS Central where, from left, Jaleeah Jones and Flora Wooster, Sterile Processing Technicians, are preparing reusable instruments for sterilization. This is a special room with its own heating, cooling and ventilation system. It is pressure-controlled, with special air exchange capability to completely exchange all the air in the room 10 times an hour, 24 hours a day. This secure room with these special capabilities assures that no contamination – pathogens or germs – can enter or escape from the processing units.

Join us for National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 9-15, 2018

suicide warning signsSwope Health Services is joining in the campaign to raise awareness of suicide prevention, in alignment with National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 9-15, 2018.

“Our goal is awareness,” said Nicole James, Crisis Specialist at SHS. “We want to be accessible to everyone.”

SHS activities will extend though National Suicide Prevention Month and include:

  • Promoting awareness through T-shirts and outreach: The Crisis Team will set up tables in the SHS Central lobby on Fridays (Sept. 14, 21 and 28) for outreach with information, stress balls and cards. T-Shirts will be available for sale ($12 for short sleeve, $15 for long sleeve) with all funds supporting the Zero Suicide
  • Encouraging kindness: SHS is using “Care Cards” to provide an extra outreach and show support to anyone facing challenges. The postcards have simple messages, like “I Care About YOU.” SHS providers, case managers and associates are invited to use the cards with their patients and clients. Cards are developed by participants in the Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program and will be available through the crisis staff for anyone to use.
  • Advocating for primary care providers’ engagement in identifying behavioral health issues. As part of the Zero Suicide initiative at SHS, providers and clinical staff are encouraged to use a standard Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) to identify patients in need of support.

A majority of suicides – 83 percent – are completed by people who had seen a primary care provider within a year, Nicole said, citing data from Zero Suicide. The idea is that providers can help reduce suicides by recognizing depression and other warning signs and addressing those issues.

power of connectionThere is no single cause of suicide – it occurs when an individual becomes overwhelmed by stress and experiences feelings of hopelessness and despair. Each year, nearly 45,000 people complete suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed. That’s why it is so important to be aware of depression and other mental health conditions, and to address them with treatment. Events like these at Swope Health aim to remove the stigma associated with suicide and depression, Nicole said.

“We can all benefit from a little kindness, and from honest conversations about mental health and wellness,” she said. “We can all benefit from connecting with each other. We all have a role in preventing suicides.”

If you are worried about someone, take action:

  • Call the Access Crisis Intervention Mental Health Crisis Hotline: 1-888-279-8188. These confidential calls are routed to Swope Health and provide direct local support.
  • Call the national Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
  • Send a text to 741 741. You can text the word “home” or ask a question.

“If you have any doubt or any question, just call. Or text. Or come in,” Nicole said. “You can ALWAYS walk in and ask to speak with a crisis specialist. We are here for you.”

More resources and information about Suicide Prevention:

Help Available for Tax Preparation

Tax Sites SHS flyerTax season is here.

The Internal Revenue Service is now accepting tax returns. The deadline for filing is Tuesday, April 17, and it surely will be here before you know it.

Nobody looks forward to tax season, but there are plenty of resources available to help with the task of preparing a tax return.

You might be eligible to get your taxes completed for free if you earned less than $60,000 last year. The service is provided by the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

Or, if you are retired, you may be eligible for free tax help from the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) or the IRS Tax Consulting for the Elderly program.

If you prefer to take care of the filing yourself, there are several options. Start with “MyFreeTaxes,” a program available across the country since 2009 using secure online H&R Block software.

This service is available to anyone who earned less than $66,000 in 2017.  There are other IRS-approved options available at FreeFile.

No matter how you go about completing your tax return, it will help to start by gathering all the required information first.

You will need your Social Security number, as well as the Social Security numbers for your spouse and dependents – and their dates of birth. You’ll also need wage and earning statements from all your employers, Form W-2 or 1099 forms.  The IRS offers checklist of all the materials you will need.

And if you run into questions, don’t worry! Here are some great resources to help:

Need a Lift to Your Next Appointment? Just call us!

SHS FleetGinger Doll, Fleet Manager at Swope Health Services, is a driving force for health care.


She and her team of eight drivers are on the Kansas City metro area streets Monday through Friday, helping SHS patients keep appointments with healthcare providers, caseworkers, dentists, optometrists and all other SHS programs.

“We know lack of transportation can be a barrier to healthcare,” she said. “We want to remove that barrier.”

The SHS transportation service is available free to any patient with a scheduled appointment at SHS Central who lives within the service area. The pickup radius is bordered at the north by St John Street, at the south by 130th Street, on the east by Sterling Street and on the west by State Line Road.

Service Area Transportation SHSTo use the service, patients call 816-599-5575 and request transportation to an appointment or home after an appointment, or round-trip service.

The SHS team requests five days’ advance notice to maximize scheduling efficiency, but Ginger notes her caring team makes every effort to respond even to same-day requests.

SHS caseworkers and community support specialists can also help with scheduling transportation.

Additionally, four days a week, the program serves Hickman Mills, Belton, Independence and Wyandotte clinics.

The program also supports SHS day program outings and Imani House programs, and makes a regular circuit weekly to homeless shelters. In 2018, Ginger plans to further expand the transportation service to support any SHS clinic.

Altogether, this driven and dedicated SHS transportation team has carried 33,000 people in 2017.

The program’s nine vehicles have logged 119,000 miles – the equivalent of driving across the country 45 times this year!

To some SHS patients, the free transportation service is their basic means of accessing healthcare. Ginger has some clients who’ve used the service faithfully for 20 years.

“It’s easy to use,” Ginger said. “Just call us.”

SHS Transportation Schedule


Tips for Healthy Eating in 2018

Ozella Jones

Nutritionist Ozella Jones offers three tips for starting off the New Year. “If you can do these three things,” she said, “you can be more healthy.”

Another new year is upon us. If your New Year’s resolution includes improving your health or diet or managing your weight, SHS Nutritionist Ozella Jones has three simple tips for you:

  1. Limit sweets and fatty foods.

“Start with sensible changes,” says Ozella. “Put desserts on your ‘limited’ list.”

It can be overwhelming to take on big changes all at once, so she recommends making small changes you can sustain over time. Once a new behavior becomes part of your routine, then add the next change.

  1. Think smaller.

“Just decrease your portion size,” she said. Instead of double helpings, limit yourself. And instead of your normal servings of food, trim down the amount you put on your plate.

“This can be an easy way to start making changes to your diet,” she said. “Be aware of how much you put on your plate.”

  1. Exercise for 30 minutes—and make it enjoyable!

“It’s OK to start out just twice a week or three times a week with some exercises,” she said. It could be taking a walk, or taking the stairs instead of an elevator, or even dancing.

“There’s nothing wrong with gradually working up to 30 minutes a day of activity,” she said. “The key is to make sure it’s something you enjoy doing.”

If you’re having fun, she notes, you’re more likely to keep up the habit and start seeing benefits.

Ozella meets regularly with patients in one-to-one meetings as well as in SHS programs. Any SHS patient can meet with Ozella for guidance, education and support with healthy eating and nutrition. Providers will frequently refer patients with nutrition or cooking questions to Ozella.

Ozella is a fan of simple healthy recipes, and offers a handful of suggestions. These recipes come from “A Change of Heart – Steps to Healthy Eating.”

A Change of Heart

Primary Care Health Home: Where the Heart Is

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Mary Patterson-Lawson, L.P.N., Patient Care Coordinator, left, meets with Melanie Chaffin, R.N., Nurse Care Manager, about providing social services for a Primary Care Health Home primary care patient.

Every month, more than 700 patients participate in Swope Health Services’ “Primary Care Health Home” program for primary care.

What is a Primary Care Health Home?

“It means we are the home for our participants to receive their healthcare and assistance with managing their chronic diseases,” said Brittney Hazley, SHS Health Care Home Director. “It’s like having a family member inside SHS.”

The program is open to anyone insured under MO HealthNet, Missouri’s Medicaid program, who have certain diagnoses.

A diagnosis of obesity or diabetes will qualify, as will a combination of any of the following: hypertension, anxiety, depression, tobacco use, asthma or any cardiovascular disease.

The purpose of the program is to help patients live healthier lives, Brittney said.

“We want to understand the patient’s situation so we can find out what they need and provide resources to help,” said Brittney.

That help might include arranging transportation, scheduling appointments, assisting with referrals to specialists, obtaining medical records and coordinating care within and outside of SHS.

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Care coordination is an important part of the Primary Care Health Home program. Here Natalie Myer, R.N., consults with Susan Livengood, M.S.N, R.N., to make sure a patient’s healthcare records are up to date.

The services can include education about chronic conditions for the patient and family, as well as support from a nutritionist, diabetic education program, tobacco cessation program and behavioral health programs.

“We’ll do whatever we can to help the patient take ownership of their healthcare,” Brittney said. “We want patients to be empowered to take control of their health.”

The National Committee on Quality Assurance, a private not-for-profit organization, reports the program is working. In Missouri, rates of hospitalization and emergency room visits have declined by 14 percent and 19 percent, respectively, for patients in the program, and patients are demonstrating better management of their chronic conditions.

For example, between 2012 and 2015, the percentage of patients with diabetes who had controlled blood glucose levels increased to 61 percent, from 18 percent, according to a report on Missouri healthcare homes.

SHS has offered the program since 2012 and is now planning to expand the initiative to its satellite clinics. Once patients enroll in the program, they are encouraged to stay in touch at least monthly with their care team, which includes three Nurse Care Managers, a Patient Care Coordinator, a Behavioral Health Consultant and the Director.

“We work on building rapport and trust,” said Brittney. “We want to make it easier for our patients to manage their chronic conditions.”