In the early hours of Monday, April 4, a local mental health agency made an unexpected announcement: many programs for children in Lorain County would close, soon. Fortunately, people who work in mental health know how to handle a crisis. That morning, leaders at the Lorain County Board of Mental Health (LCBMH) began the process of renegotiating and relocating necessary services. This month, LCBMH released a list of budget allocations that supports the children and teens affected by the closures, as well as the wider community.
That Monday in April, LCBMH learned that Beech Brook, a well-respected provider of services for children, would close many of its operations in about 60 days. On Day 53, Thursday, May 26, LCBMH approved a budget based on collaboration between agencies, and a firm commitment to preserving essential services for children and teens.
“We are viewing this transition as a way to strengthen the mental health network for the long term, focusing and prioritizing services. We concentrated on strengths, in exactly the same way our clinicians do with consumers of mental health services. What are the best ways to resolve today’s crisis, but also create healthy outcomes for the future?” says Traci Shed, LCBMH Board Chair.
Beech Brook will provide school-based mental health services in Lorain County, but their intensive home-based services, outpatient therapy, safety assessments for youth in detention homes, consultation to the Juvenile Court for youngsters with mental health needs, and youth crisis stabilization programs, along with most staff who operate the programs, are shifting to other local agencies. Of Beech Brook’s approximately 16 full-time and 4 part-time workers who serve the Lorain County community, several will continue in school-based services or other Beech Brook programs. Eight former Beech Brook staff members have been transitioned to other agencies to continue essential services.
“Beech Brook has been a caring and important provider of services to young local residents,” says Heather Distin, the Director of Children’s Intersystems Programs for Lorain County, who was on staff at Beech Brook in April. Distin notes that Beech Brook, the Board of Mental Health, and multiple community agencies are creating transition plans for the behavioral health system, but also for individual children.
“We are doing everything possible to make sure that kids who are receiving services can continue, often with the same counselor they already know and trust. There are many logistics involved to make that happen,” Distin says.
Charles Neff, LCBMH Executive Director, shared his appreciation at the Board of Directors May 26 meeting, for the mental health system’s cooperative approach to transitioning Beech Brook’s programs.
“In my experience, I can’t ever remember being able to successfully transition entire programs from one agency to another under these conditions and in such a short time frame. This will really help minimize the disruption of the treatment and care of the youth and families who are affected by this.”
Neff notes that his Board members were “agile and responsive” to the closures, and that the LCBMH’s role as a locally directed, impartial entity allows them to solve problems based on community need while also defying the stereotype that government always moves slowly.
Shed credits the clinical staff of the Board of Mental Health, led by Dr. Kathleen Kern, with keeping a positive focus and finding innovative solutions to service needs.
“We are sad to see Beech Brook’s services reduced. But we are encouraged by how other providers and staff stepped up to fill those temporary gaps and plan for the long-term vitality of the system,” Shed says. It has been inspiring, she says, to witness the mental health network’s “responsible, compassionate” reaction to a shift in services.
“Here’s what doesn’t change: we do our best to help children who need help. The kids will be OK,” Shed says.
On May 26, Shed led the passage of a budget that will serve people in need, as well as fund and relocate necessary programs and services. The full list of allocations for mental health providers for the 2017 State Fiscal Year (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017) is available online at www.lcbmh.org/2017SFY.
In Lorain County, no family or individual will be turned away from necessary mental health services due to an inability to pay. Families experiencing a mental health crisis can still call the 24/7 hotline at 800.888.6161. Or, if families or individuals are not in crisis but think they might need services, they can review the online Services Directory at www.lcbmh.org, or call 440.240.7025 to receive personalized attention and help connecting to an agency.
LCBMH is the local public agency that plans, funds, monitors, and evaluates a system of services for residents with mental illness in Lorain County.