Upon graduation from Ball State University with a Bachelor’s in Social Work, I worked as the System Point of Entry (SPOE) for First Steps in Howard County. The First Steps program provides services for children ages birth to three with developmental delays, developmental disabilities and medical conditions. My role was to link parents to receive an evaluation to determine if their child qualified for services. I was the SPOE for almost 6 years. I then moved to St. Petersburg, Florida and worked at All Children’s Hospital in their early intervention program as a service coordinator again working with children ages birth to three ensuring that children were receiving services appropriately. After a little over a year, I determined that I needed my family and the seasons, and moved back to Indiana. I swore to my parents that I would never get into mental health services as my dad worked for the trade association that represents mental health centers in Indiana, my mom was a nurse manager on an acute psychiatric unit, and my older sister was an LCSW. I returned to Indiana and applied for and got a job with Aspire (then BehaviorCorp) as care coordinator providing wraparound services for the Dawn Project.
How long have you worked for Aspire?
In April of this year, I will have worked for Aspire for 11 years.
What positions have you held with Aspire?
I was a care coordinator at the Dawn Project. I am currently a wraparound facilitator for the Children’s Mental Health Wraparound program (CMHW) and the Children’s Mental Health Initiative Program (CMHI). Both these involve implementing the wraparound philosophy and program for families.
Describe your current position, including your responsibilities?
As a wraparound facilitator, my role is to link, monitor, and connect families to providers and services for their children. The SOC program provides intense mental health services to children who qualify, ages 6 yrs to 18 years old. The children on the SOC programs have often received numerous forms of services and treatment. These children come to wraparound almost as a last resort to see if the wraparound philosophy and strengths-based approach will allow them to remain in the community. Several of our youth are on the cusp of being admitted to residential treatment centers or state hospitals. The wraparound philosophy is to keep youth in the community by providing services in the home and community.
Each month the child and family team meet to discuss how the client and family are doing with services. These team meetings include parents, providers, client, natural supports, school personnel, clergy, teachers, probation officers (if applicable), DCS family case managers (if applicable), and others that are supportive of the youth. The wraparound facilitator and team develop a comprehensive plan of care that is based on what the family and client identify as needs they would like to work on. The team also develops a comprehensive crisis plan that the team will follow if the client is in crisis. This includes making sure Aspire crisis is aware of how to respond to our clients when they call in. Wraparound facilitators also attend court for either DCS or probation matters per the parent’s request. Wraparound facilitators attend case conference to advocate and link with schools to support the youth in the education setting.
What does a typical day as wraparound facilitator look like?
What has occurred in the almost 11 years of working as wraparound facilitator, is that there is not really a “typical day”. My day can vary, but typically I will come to the office and enter my case management notes, check emails, and messages each morning. Based on what that all looks like, often times we are communicating with families and teams members in relation to both positive and negative situations to keep the team fully informed. These conversations can vary from a few minutes to lengthy periods of time spent gathering information. The role of the wraparound facilitator is to ensure that all team members are updated with what is occurring with the clients and families.
During those gaps in time of communicating with others, wraparound facilitators could also be calling Aspire crisis to make them aware of a volatile client, and sharing that the family may be calling for support and crisis soon.
The wraparound facilitator is asked to complete plans of care, intervention plans, and crisis plans in the TOBI system required for CMHW cases. These plans are strengths-based, needs-driven, and something the family should be able to follow. These plans are reviewed by the state to ensure that they are true to the wraparound philosophy and standards. Within MIX, we are entering our case management notes, completing CANS assessments, updating treatment plans and completing our child and family team meeting minutes.
During our day we can have several different types of meetings, including case conferences at school, child and family team meetings, crisis response, and staffing meetings with our supervisor. Each day is full of things to do and lots of communication with families, providers, schools, and others.
What in your educational background and work experience prepared you for your current position?
My previous works with First Steps prepared me to multi-task, and to interact with families that were struggling with mental health needs. While in college, my volunteer experiences for classes were in the community mental health centers.
If you weren’t working in this field, what would you be doing?
Good question… my family has always shared that would be a great hair dresser. I have found that you typically share lots of information with your hair dresser, so it would similar to what I do now (gathering lots of information and listening) but in a different way. J
What is it that drew you to the field of mental health?
Throughout my childhood, both my parents worked significantly in mental health and community mental health. At a young age, I remember my parents driving by the cluster apartments and talking under their breath about someone they saw standing outside the apartments they might have known. At the time, I did not think anything of it but as I grew older it became clearer how they knew the people standing outside the apartment. Similar experiences occurred when we were walking around the mall and people coming up to my parents and saying hello or sharing information. As those individuals walked away, I would ask, “Who was that?” My parents responses were always, “We know they from living in Kokomo,” and that is all that was said. Seeing my parent’s help others probably guided me to look at mental health more closely.
What impact do you feel your work has had on Aspire and its clients?
My work is reflective of who I am as a person. I want to help others get to a better place and see them doing it. Because this program is strengths-based, I get to see the impact that just saying something encouraging can do for a child or parent. I give 100% in my work, and I believe my families and Aspire see this by getting very detailed and specific information in an efficient manner. My mantra is: “ Follow through with what you are going to do and be transparent.”
What things do you do to help you cope with the demands of your job?
To cope with the often sad, traumatic, and horrible experiences families and clients have to share with me daily is to turn off work when I clock out and leave that at the door when I get home. I turn to my husband and 2 young kids and what their days are like.
Alyssa Pearson is a System of Care Coordinator at Aspire Indiana. The beliefs and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Ms. Pearson. You can learn more about Aspire Indiana at https://www.facebook.com/AspireIndiana.