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05/2009 RVCC Joins New Children Behavioral Health Initiative

River Valley Counseling Center, Inc. (RVCC) is very pleased to announce its participation in the state’s new Children Behavioral Health Initiative (CBHI) , which start being implemented on July 1, 2009. RVCC’s involvement is a collaborative effort with The Carson Center of Westfield and the Behavioral Health Network of Springfield.  The Carson Center was recently awarded state supported programming as a Community Service Agency (“CSA”) for the Holyoke Area, which includes Holyoke and Westfield.  The Carson Center will focus on serving Westfield and surrounding towns and has subcontracted with RVCC and BHN to serve the needs of children and their families in Holyoke.

This initiative is a result of a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of over fifteen thousand Medicaid-eligible children and adolescents under the age of 21 who need, but are not receiving, the home-based mental health services necessary for them to remain with their families and in their home communities. Without appropriate home-based services, these children can be at risk for prolonged or unnecessary hospitalization, or other out-of-home placement, as well as removal from their local schools and communities. 

The class action suit Rosie D. vs Romney and subsequently Rosie D. v. Patrick is commonly now referred to as the Rosie D.  case, in which the courts ruled that the state of Massachusetts was not providing certain services that were described in federal Medicaid provisions. As a result of this court ruling, Massachusetts developed CBHI, a modified system of care with a more positive approach to service delivery. 

Services will be delivered in a strengths-based “Wraparound” model. Staff will
be providing technical as well as therapeutic services to the family.
Mentoring and supportive services are also being developed in Holyoke. These much needed services are being developed to support families that have a child who has a serious emotional disturbance. The goal of the programming is to help the child remain in their own home/community and minimize the use of hospitals and residential programs.

Bonnie Coopersmith, LMFT, the newly hired site director for RVCC’s 303 Beech Street Outpatient Clinic and Jeff Kassis, clinical director for the agency, are responsible for implementing and providing oversight of the CSA services.  Ms. Coopersmith has recently relocated from the Boston area where she developed and provided Wraparound services for a Department of Mental Health-funded program since 1997.

As Kassis and Coopersmith state, “There are four core values of Wraparound programming.  They include:

Family voice and choice: Family member perspectives are intentionally  elicited and prioritized during all phases of treatment;

Natural supports: Staff works with the families to  actively seek out natural resources that may be drawn from family members’ networks of interpersonal and community relationships;

Culturally competent: The Wraparound process demonstrates respect for, and builds on, the values, preferences, beliefs, culture, and identity of the youth and family;

Strengths-based: The process identifies and builds on, the capabilities, knowledge skills and assets of the youth and family and their community.

Coopersmith sites many changes in how services will be provided.  A few are:

Improved mental health screening procedures with primary care providers;

Needs and strengths assessment for all people receiving services that are age 20 and under;

Modified mobile crisis intervention and crisis stabilization services;

In-home individual and family therapy services ;

In-home behavioral therapy and behavior management;

Mentoring and parent/caregiver support system;

Standardized mental health assessments.

Kassis makes a point to mention that staff need to become certified in order to perform assessments.  He states, “I am pleased to report that RVCC has already implemented the use of the state’s standardized assessment, the “CANS,” or Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths tool.”

Coopersmith explains, “Sometimes trying to access the appropriate services for your child can be like getting lost in a maze. Much of our work will be done with the parents, working side by side with them and helping them become strong advocates for their family. We will be employing parents who have had their own children receive services to work with other parents and teach them what they have learned over the years. This peer model of treatment has been very successful in multiple programs in Massachusetts and around the Country.”

“Being part of this new movement is very exciting for us as we share the
values that were set forth in the development of the programming.  I am thrilled to be part of this project which will most certainly begin to transform the way that community services are delivered to our children and their families,” states Coopersmith.

For more information about CSA services or if you are interested in becoming part of the team, please contact Bonnie Coopersmith at 540-1150 or Jeff Kassis at 540-1237.