FACE acts fast to keep serving Boone County families, kids

Like nearly every organization, FACE of Boone County has been forced to alter the delivery methods for some of its services because of the pandemic. But Adielle Ehret, the executive director of FACE, says that has taught the organization valuable lessons and helped it find effective ways to deliver services.

FACE, which stands for Family Access Center of Excellence, is an access center for families of children up to the age of 19 who are experiencing social, emotional and behavioral concerns. It looks to connect those families with needed resources. In schools, FACE looks to identify students who are showcasing early indicators of mental health problems to allow school leaders to intervene and provide support.

During the pandemic, FACE had to transition to more telehealth services. That helped FACE realize that telehealth should continue to be a more prominent option because of its accessibility, Ehret said.

FACE also established the Therapy Access Program, which provided six therapy sessions to families that might have difficulty affording them, and the plan is to keep that program going in the future.

FACE is a winner of this year’s Kindness in Business awards in the Kindness to Youth category. The awards recognize Boone County businesses and organizations that have exhibited and promoted kindness during the past year.

Missouri Business Alert spoke with Ehret and Sarah Owens, FACE’s executive director of school-based services, about FACE and its efforts to show kindness. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Missouri Business Alert: How has FACE embodied kindness in the past year?

Adielle Ehret: A core value at FACE is to embody kindness in everything that we do. So, from the warm and compassionate initial contact that we have with a family over the phone to the ongoing, supportive, strengths-based case managers that we provide. Families have just been through so much, and each family has a story to share, and our part is to provide a safe space for families just to be able to come and share about what they’ve experienced, and what their needs are and to receive support in accessing resources that can help meet those needs. FACE supports youth and families by showing respect and compassion about what they’re going through, and we want families to know that there is hope.

Sarah Owens: I’d say schools are a nurturing environment where all of our youth in the county are present each and every day. It’s an opportunity for us to extend the same kindness that we see through our community services … with students in schools. And offering each student an opportunity to excel socially, emotionally and academically, is where kindness really shows through.

MBA: How did things have to change for FACE when the pandemic hit?

AE: At the start of the pandemic, we had to work really quickly to transition from in-person services to providing telehealth in order to provide our support to the families in our community, but also to ensure the safety and the well-being of staff and families, too. The pandemic impacted our community in numerous ways, and one of them was just increased mental health needs. And to support children’s mental health, we collaborated with the Boone County Children’s Services Board, as well as several mental health clinicians in our community to establish the Therapy Access Program. We quickly collaborated and got that started to ensure that no kiddos slipped through the cracks. We also realized that Boone County has so many wonderful resources, but as we were transitioning, so was everybody else. So, we have a provider database. It’s called bocomoproviders.org, and what we did was we quickly reached out to all the providers in our database to learn about what they were doing differently in supporting the community and families and us specifically, so that we could then better help families get their needs met.

SO: When the pandemic hit, I would say schools had to also shift pretty quickly, and students were being educated at home virtually. That means that students who were regularly receiving free supportive social and emotional interventions were not at school to receive those interventions anymore. So, we had to shift pretty quickly to become proficient in providing telehealth services to youth to make sure that we could continue services that were already in place and have that continuity of care. But we also had to help support our staff and our teachers.

MBA: What are some of the key lessons you learned from the pandemic about the needs of the children you serve and your own organization?

AE: We learned that collaboration is key, right? So we have continued to value our collective efforts with other community agencies and sectors because it takes everyone — not just FACE, not just one agency, but everyone — working together to make a strong community and to have our children be healthy and whole. So from families themselves, to schools, to law enforcement, to social service providers, health care providers — that takes everybody. I think, through the pandemic, we have learned that all of us pulling together is what is going to make the biggest difference.

SO: One of the things that we learned from the school-based services side is that, in order to help kids, we as adults have to be on the same page. We have to be collaborating and working together towards the shared goal. It highlighted an opportunity for us to do that, and see that it worked really well, in order to increase the efficiency of getting services to students. And it’s something that we can continue, building upon those strong relationships, when collaborating moving forward.

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