Students from area high schools were chosen to participate in a Youth Ambassador Program Thursday at Rochester Area High Schoo. Sponsored by the Beaver County System of Care, the program began last fall as a way to help spread awareness about mental health issues in the county high schools. Amy Fenn, right, and Jimmy Dowd, left, both from Pressley Ridge, talk to Camryn Hampe, 15, from Freedom, about sharing her thoughts about mental illness for a video.
ROCHESTER TWP. - The Beaver County System of Care reconvened its Youth Ambassador program Thursday for a daylong workshop at Rochester Area High School.
The organization, in partnership with several other local organizations, launched the Youth Ambassador program last fall as a way to help spread awareness about mental health issues in Beaver County's high schools.
The program kicked off last year with students from Aliquippa, Big Beaver Falls Area, Freedom Area, New Brighton Area and Rochester Area school districts. High school principals or guidance counselors selected about 10 student representatives from each school to participate in the program.
The program's organizers hope to expand it to every school district in the county, said Susan Smith, a program specialist and one of the ambassador program’s organizers.
The program reached toward that goal Thursday, Smith said. Social workers and guidance counselors from Ambridge Area, Central Valley, Hopewell Area, Riverside and Western Beaver school districts attended Thursday's event to see how the program might fit into their school communities.
This article originally appeared in The Beaver County Times.
HAMILTON, OH – The Pressley Ridge Family Preservation Program (FPP) here in Butler County recently completed a “Family Tracer” that demonstrated what program staff and leadership might have already suspected: Pressley Ridge families greatly appreciate their partnership with our organization and the hard work that is done on their behalf.
The Family Tracer is a new endeavor at Pressley Ridge that was developed by the Organizational Performance department to assess our family engagement efforts and inform leadership of the findings, in order to better align organizational practices with our strategic initiatives. How is this done?
A Family Tracer assessment is conducted via a site visit to a program by a team of reviewers. The goal is to review and rate evidence of family engagement, based on current practices. The data collection procedures include chart reviews, review of program materials and handouts, and semi-structured interviews or focus groups with staff, individuals in services, and family members. The physical environment of the program site is also rated.
Getting back their lives
In Butler County, located outside of Cincinnati, perhaps the most telling piece of the Tracer was the focus group interview. A group of eight caretakers – biological parents, grandparents and foster parents – participated in a conversation that was scheduled to last an hour but ran over because of the enthusiasm of the participants.
The gratitude these parents and caretakers expressed for their Pressley Ridge service providers was humbling and heartwarming. They provided one example after another of Pressley clinicians providing tireless, competent support, helping families one day at time. “It’s so wonderful to have support when you find it,” said one person. Another simply said: “Pressley Ridge gave me my life back.”
More than one person said that, whenever possible, they don’t use any service provider other than Pressley Ridge. There was a consensus not only about the superiority of existing Pressley Ridge services; when asked to think about what their area needed to enhance the quality of life, the answer was unanimous: more Pressley Ridge services.
How do we know that this wasn’t a case of a few appreciative clients skewing the outcome? For one thing, the Family Tracer’s validity is dependent on data from a variety of sources, not just satisfied customers; for example, there was a chart review of randomly selected files and a review of program materials, which measured current practice, not planned or intended behavior. This data supported what the parents and caretakers said – that the program is very engaged with families.
Butler County’s Family Preservation Program used to be run in-house by Children’s Services (BCCS) but was discontinued in 2011 due to budgetary issues. When it was decided last year to bring the program back through outside providers, Pressley Ridge won the contract. The county’s response to the job Pressley Ridge is doing presents further evidence of the program’s effectiveness.
BCCS Director Bill Morrison told a local newspaper that choosing Pressley Ridge was the best decision the county could have made. Pressley “hit the ground running much quicker than any other new program I’ve ever started,” he told the paper. “It immediately started affecting our practice.” Within six months of starting work, the Pressley FPP program was credited with keeping 20 children in their homes. Many more families have been helped since then.
Program supervisor Anna Robinson says, “The staff deserves all of the credit. We didn’t start slow but full force; they’ve been working hard since day one.” She praises them for coming together as a team in a short amount of time. “It’s their dedication to the program and the clients,” said Robinson. “I can’t compliment them enough.” Says Dr. Annette Trunzo, director of Organizational Performance: “Tracers give us an opportunity as an organization to determine if we are achieving the results that we want.” Butler County FPP is the first Pressley Ridge program to complete a Family Tracer in its official rollout – several programs participated in the pilot stage last year while the process was being fine-tuned.
Trunzo looks forward to more programs completing Family Tracers this year. “It’s a good peer-to-peer process that lets us step into the shoes of the persons who use the services to see how the delivery of services is experienced from their perspective.”
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