WORCESTER COMMUNITIES OF CARE
The Central Massachusetts Communities of Care family centers in Webster and Fitchburg provide a range of activities and programming in a warm, family-friendly environment to help youth build essential skills and promote community involvement. Activities include movie nights, outings to local parks and hip-hop dance classes, above.
Youth with complex emotional and behavioral challenges often require tailored care and services to meet their needs. While hospitals and specialty institutions can be appropriate components of a continuum of care for some, others can live successfully within their communities when they have access to the right support. UMass Medical School’s Communities of Care program is dedicated to helping area youth lead productive and happy lives at home. The program advocates for an integrated system of care for families by providing comprehensive mental health and support services.
Under the guidance of the UMMS Department of Psychiatry and comprising three initiatives, the program cultivates a welcoming community and family-focused environment that engages service providers, youth and their families, natural supports, such as friends and neighbors, churches and sports programs.
Worcester Communities of Care serves youth ages 3 to 21 and their families who live in the city through the Coordinated Family-Focused Care (CFFC) program of the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership. Initiated with a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration in 1999, Worcester Communities of Care provides wraparound services that embody a “whatever it takes” approach, providing families with a designated care manager and family partner who identify and coordinate services with the family that are youth-guided, family-driven, culturally sensitive, community-based and individualized. The success of Worcester Communities of Care set the stage for the development of CFFC, which has five programs throughout the state and includes the original Worcester-based program.
Building upon this wraparound approach to meeting the needs of families in the greater Central Massachusetts area, Central Mass Communities of Care was developed to focus on families outside the city of Worcester, serving youth ages 10 to 18 with complex emotional and behavioral challenges. “The families really helped us to design this program,” said Project Director Suzanne Hannigan. “They helped write the job descriptions and were part of the hiring process.”
“There was a true community team that was invested in the beginnings of this project,” added Susan Galvin, care manager for CFFC and marketing coordinator for Central Mass Communities of Care.
Worcester Communities of Care provides wraparound services that embody a "whatever it takes" approach, providing families with a designated care manager and partner who identify and coordinate services that are youth-guided and family-driven.
The goal of the program is to enhance the system of care in Central Massachusetts for these youth while reducing juvenile justice involvement. Now in its third year, Central Mass Communities of Care has opened two community-based youth and family centers to provide families with a variety of support and networking opportunities that address service gaps and improve school outcomes, using evidence-based practices. “The juvenile courts really trust these two centers and are willing to divert youth to them,” said Hannigan. “They have been champions for the family centers.” An ongoing national evaluation outcomes study of eligible youth participating in the program is indicating significant improvements in behavior and school attendance and a reduction in delinquent behavior.
"The families really helped us to design this program. They helped write the job descriptions and were part of the hiring process." -Suzanne Hannigan, project director
The Training and Learning Collaborative, the third Communities of Care initiative, was established in 2003 in response to community requests for training on collaborative approaches with families from Communities of Care staff. Communities of Care has been well-positioned to provide customized training to state agencies, school districts, clinicians and parent groups in Central Massachusetts and beyond. Training is conducted by both a provider and a family member with experience in coordinating this type of care.
“Ours is a grant that is designed to help systems change,” said Toni DuBrino, director of Family Involvement and Training. “Our training has helped to do that in the departments of Mental Health and Children and Family Services, among others.”
Communities of Care
This information appears in the UMMS 2008 Annual Report. PDF available.