New Family Access Center for Excellence aims to be “one-stop shop” for mental health services

Kelly Wallis, director of Boone County Community Services Department: “It’s something very innovative and new … We could definitely be a model for other counties and possibly even other states.”

A new center in downtown Columbia will help connect children and families to mental health services.

The Family Access Center for Excellence, which opened its doors Aug. 15, is the first facility of its kind in the area and will serve children up to the age of 19. MU researchers from the Missouri Prevention Center partnered with several public health and service to establish the program.

FACE aims to provide an unbiased evidence-based assessment for each case. From there, they can refer the family to whichever provider is best for them and help them overcome any barriers they might have to accessing services.

“To boil it down, it is a one-stop shop where a family or child can be referred from any source,” said Kelly Wallis, director of Boone County Community Services Department.

MU students will work with licensed clinicians to develop their own assessment and case management skills, as well as action plans for the families, said Aaron Thompson, assistant professor in the School of Social Work and associate director of the Missouri Prevention Center.

“Students, alongside clinicians, will then continually address barriers to service access (e.g., transportation, cost, etc.) through an intensive case management procedure to ensure that families connect with the services, that they continue with the stated action plan and that progress is monitored,” Thompson said in an email.

Multiple departments are involved with the program.

“Social work, clinical psychology, school counseling and school psychology are currently departments that are obviously involved; however, we would invite other partnering departments and faculty and students as long as their direct involvement benefits families and youth,” Thompson said in an email.

Eventually, Thompson hopes FACE will become an American Psychological Association accredited practicum site, which would allow the program to host doctoral-level psychologists who need supervised practice toward licensure.

FACE exists as a result of the Children’s Mental Health tax, a quarter-cent sales tax that contributes to children’s mental health services. The proceeds from this tax go to the Boone County Children’s Services Fund, which funds FACE among other programs.

“What’s cool about this whole process is children’s mental health tax was put on the ballot as a result of a citizen’s petition here in Boone County,” Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson said. “It wasn’t government-driven at all. This came about because people in the community recognized the need.”

More than 50 percent of families that go to an appointment with a service provider never return for a follow-up appointment, according to an MU News Bureau news release. Some families instead turn to the juvenile correctional system to get the services they need.

“Parents or teachers will call law enforcement to take these kids to juvie, because that’s been the only mechanism by which they could get their services,” Janet Thompson said. “That’s problematic on many levels, but one of the data driven responses to that is a kid that is in juvenile is seven times more likely to end up in the adult criminal court system.”

FACE is currently making connections with community leaders and school systems throughout the county. Once it is fully established in Columbia, the organization plans to open satellite offices to eliminate the need for travel and better serve rural communities within Boone County. Although they currently only have three case managers, the organization hopes to expand soon.

In five years, Aaron Thompson expects that FACE will house approximately 15 to 20 clinical case managers, each with a caseload of 20 to 25 families, giving FACE the capacity to see nearly 500 families.

“In five years, FACE will have the capacity to offer direct services to families in the form of telehealth … This is an important service for families in rural areas who need services and cannot come to Columbia,” Aaron Thompson said in an email.

Another deterrent to accessing mental health services is cost, but FACE hopes to help with that, too.

“All FACE services and associated referrals will be free of charge for the families and FACE will host a range of remedies to assure that these services are covered,” Aaron Thompson said in an email.

FACE will monitor its success by collecting data on the families it assists and monitoring the number of juveniles entering into the juvenile correctional system, according to a press release from the College of Education.

“This is a pilot program; it’s something very innovative and new,” Wallis said. “There are other counties looking towards us to see if this is something that helps the community. We could definitely be a model for other counties and possibly even other states.”

Edited by Kyra Haas |

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