IMPACT makes an impact

Staff report

Mental health counselor Julie Steineman provides supportive counseling services to a client through the IMPACT program.

Mental health counselor Julie Steineman provides supportive counseling services to a client through the IMPACT program.

Courtesy photo

SIDNEY — Shelby County is home to a unique program providing services and supports to families while developing collaboration between entities in the community.

The IMPACT (Imagine Making Positive Accountable Changes Together) program was created to increase access to mental health counseling and related services to families while at the same time giving a valuable tool to juvenile court, school districts and other programs serving young children.

The program goal is to identify students in the preschool through middle school age range who are facing obstacles which have the potential to have a negative impact on future success. These issues can include academic, social, or mental health challenges and students are often struggling in multiple areas. Referrals for the program are received through the school systems in Shelby County as well as juvenile court. Administrators, guidance counselors and classroom teachers are the typical starting point for referral into the program.

School districts also have the opportunity to utilize the IMPACT program in lieu of school discipline. Students can be referred to the program instead of receiving consequences such as suspension or expulsion from school.

The program provides multiple services to assist families in addressing concerns. Individual and family counseling, case management services, and psychiatric support services can be provided during participation.

Families referred to the program meet with Amy Simindinger, program director. The requirements for the program are explained to the family and a participation agreement is signed. The family is then referred to Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio, the service provider for the IMPACT program. Families are expected to attend appointments consistently and follow recommendations from the therapist working with the family. Progress and compliance are reviewed regularly for continued participation in the program. The program is geared toward assisting the entire family and parents must participate in the process.

The IMPACT program funding is provided by the Shelby County United Way. Juvenile Judge Beigel noted that “This has been a very successful program that is needed to help address the problems that come before the court. We use it extensively. The United Way’s support has been essential in making this happen.”

“The Impact program continues to be a great resource in Shelby County to assist children and youth in accessing mental health services” said Jodi Knouff, clinical director of Family Resource Center. “The Impact program assists families in navigating, coordinating, and eliminating barriers in obtaining mental health services. Being the provider of the services offered through the Impact program, Family Resource Center has seen firsthand how the program has made such a great impact on those that participate in the program. Family Resource Center appreciates the support of the United Way and will continue to work with the systems in the community to meet the mental health needs of the children, youth, and families of Shelby County.”

Simindinger noted that there isn’t a one size fits all description of who can benefit from the program. “We didn’t want to create a program that only provided support to a very narrow population. Over the years, family needs have varied greatly. We have served children who are in the care of relatives due to addiction, children that struggle with anxiety, depression, or anger and children that need support in developing social skills,” she said.

“I have met with families who have had to decide between paying a household bill and purchasing a child’s medication, buying groceries or paying for counseling. In an ideal world, mental health and wellbeing would be as easily addressed and cared for as a child’s yearly well check or vision and hearing screenings. It can be daunting to look for supportive counseling and particularly for young children. The IMPACT program helps families secure services for their child while at the same time taking the worry out of how to afford the help,” she added.

Scott Barr, executive director of the Shelby County United Way, noted, “The Shelby County United Way Board of Directors is pleased that the IMPACT Program continues to grow each year and benefit more families. This unique collaboration between the juvenile court, Midwest Regional ESC, local school districts, and the Family Resource Center is an example of what can be accomplished when we work together.”

Through the program, children and families have been served from all Shelby County public school districts, Christian Academy and Holy Angels, as well as childcare programs, such as the YMCA and Wilma Valentine Childcare. Children as young as 3 have been referred to the program. Since the program’s inception, nearly 300 families have received services. Seventy-seven percent of youth who participated in the program have remained out of the juvenile court system one or more years after participation in the program.

Families interested in learning more about the IMPACT program can contact their school guidance counselors or call 498-1354.

Mental health counselor Julie Steineman provides supportive counseling services to a client through the IMPACT program. health counselor Julie Steineman provides supportive counseling services to a client through the IMPACT program. Courtesy photo

Staff report