Mercy Health Love County - News

Love County System of Care Aiding Troubled Youth, Families

Posted on Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Care for Love County: Ron Beach of Thackerville joined Pam Kerkstra, program manager of Love County System of Care, in an interview with KXII’s Keith Moon. They explained how local parents may call for assistance for their children, ages 0 to 21, with behavioral or mental health issues.
Children and youth with behavioral or mental health issues can experience success in their communities, homes, and schools.
Their parents and siblings can emerge from trying times and thrive.
A Love County service called “System of Care” has been in place since 2005 to make it so.
“All families need to do is ask,” said Pam Kerkstra, program manager.
Also, schools, physicians, law enforcement, juvenile authorities, counselors, child welfare, or other entities with which the child may be dealing are trained to make referrals to System of Care.
Services take place in the child’s home. There are no out-of-pocket fees for the family, and often there is funding for their use on treatment-related activities or purchases that will help the family members bond and succeed as a unit.
One of System of Care’s ardent fans is Ron Beach, a Thackerville resident and long-time principal of Ardmore Middle School.
“We often use System of Care in connection with students who are suspended because of drugs, fighting, weapons, or trouble with the law. It might cut a suspension in half if a child and parent sign up for the services. We know the student will come back with counseling in place, and the parents certainly want their child back in school. We have a good success rate,” he said.
Beach recently went on television in Ardmore to talk about System of Care. He was joined by the school-based social worker, Stephanie Hacker, who formerly was a child welfare worker in Love County, and Kerkstra.
The news program featured a state grant awarded for Love County, which has slots available for eight families in System of Care. Additional funding comes from Medicaid and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
System of Care is intended by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Department of Human Services, State Department of Education, and Oklahoma Juvenile Services to take a leading “wraparound” role in cases where a family is working with a number of agencies.
“Every agency and school may have its own individual education or treatment plan for the family or child to follow, and we respect and assist with this. We have a mental health care coordinator in the home to discuss the family’s story and listen to its concerns, needs, hopes, dreams, and strengths. Our focus is to work from the strengths the family has and help them build on that,” Kerkstra said.
System of Care helps parents gain control and lead their family. “Parents have a voice and a choice in the goals we work on together,” she said.
Parents often feel more comfortable receiving counseling services in the home than in a clinical setting, but other locations may also be used.
A satisfied parent participated in the KXII television interview. “My 13-year-old daughter had fallen into bad company at school and had gotten into trouble outside of school,” she said.
“She was already in counseling but was shut down. The System of Care brought everybody together, family, friends, school, anybody who could help this child. She is where she wants to please her counselor and is making real progress in school.”
“It’s an awesome program,” Hacker added. “We use it in the middle school and high school in Ardmore. It’s a form of crisis intervention for students with academic problems, school infractions, or drug use, or who have been hospitalized or have grief or trauma issues. When parents don’t know what to do, System of Care can intervene and help.”
System of Care covers children and youth ages 0 to 21. Parents may contact them by calling Mental Health Services of Southern Oklahoma at 223-2537.
It is a voluntary program but one to which parents should readily agree if referred, Beach said. “Everybody wins,” he said.