By providing pediatric behavioral health care within a learning community, St. Vincent Family Center is changing the lives of children and families.
With a range of programs from prevention to foster care, the organization assists children and their families in managing behaviors that allow them to succeed. For example, through residential services, children ages 5 through 13 with severe issues can receive services 24/7.
St. Vincent Family Center is also one of a few behavioral health centers that has a therapeutic school on-site where children can attend school while receiving daily treatment for their behaviors.
“Each day, our staff members come to work with our mission in mind,” says President and CEO Shawn Holt. “Children are the most vulnerable in our community and they are also the future. By helping them work through their behavioral health challenges, we are helping them to succeed at home, in school and in their community.
“If we do our job well, not only will our families be stronger today, they will also be stronger into the next generation. As a result, our community will thrive.”
Smart Business spoke with Holt about how the nonprofit has expanded its services to meet increased demands, and its plans to continue to do so in the future.
SB: In what ways has St. Vincent Family Center grown in recent years?
SH: Our agency has grown substantially over the past five years.
Early in 2011, we completed our strategic plan with five areas of focus. Based on that, we put several initiatives into place that would enable us to make a deeper impact in the Central Ohio community. One important area was to expand our clinical services to meet the growing demand for pediatric behavioral health care services.
When I first came to St. Vincent Family Center in 2010, we had an average of six children in our Residential Program. Today, we have capacity for 35 children per day and the need is greater than ever.
Our Early Childhood Mental Health Services also helps provide behavioral health support to 30 preschools throughout the community. Over the past few years, it has grown 19 percent. However, due to a recent grant collaboration with The Ohio State University, we will be doubling this program’s size in 2015.
In the past three years, we have really focused on Hispanic/Latino services by adding bilingual clinicians with specialized training, as well as bilingual community psychiatric support professionals and administrative staff. As a result, these services have grown 50 percent to fill a service gap in our community.
Our community-based services provide psychiatric support professionals to work with families in their homes and in their children’s schools. This service has grown 30 percent in the past two years.
Finally, our Therapeutic School Age program has grown 20 percent. Due to demand, we maximized the space in our current facility and cannot expand services any further. For this reason, we launched a capital campaign to raise funds to build a 21,000-square-foot wing.
The expansion will allow us to serve 44 percent more children on a daily basis. The new wing will have 17 classrooms with natural light and be more conducive to learning.
We also have been fortunate to receive funding from the Ingram-White Castle and Safelite AutoGlass® foundations that will give us the opportunity to provide smartboards in every classroom with tablets for each of our children. This new way of learning will be transformational for our children.
SB: How will additional space help further your mission?
SH: The addition of the new wing will play a vital role in providing hope for children and parents who are struggling with behavioral health issues. By having additional resources to treat more children early, our children will have a greater chance of succeeding.
SB: How does your organization deal with the stigma often associated with mental health?
SH: All of our work takes place on a client-by-client basis. We try to normalize the family dynamics to appreciate and understand our clients by giving them input into the services that are being offered. We also provide an environment that is culturally conducive to all the families we serve.
SB: Has the perception of mental health changed?
SH: I think it has. We teach people that mental illness is the same as a physical illness; with treatment it can be managed.
SB: What accomplishments from the past year are you most excited about, and what is in store for the future?
SH: I am so proud of my staff and the work we do with children and families each day. They genuinely care about the people we serve and they put their hearts and souls into making sure that our children receive the best possible care.
When children come to St. Vincent Family Center, they and their families are struggling for many reasons. When the children leave our services, we have seen them come full circle through their challenges and with the tools to succeed.
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing our children happy and looking forward to school and their futures.