April Cultural Conversations Book Club

The next Cultural Conversations book club selection is Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.  It tells the story of the author’s journey to understand inexplicable racial tensions in her personal and professional relationships and how an “aha” moment launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan.

To participate in the FREE book club you must either live or work in Clermont County.  You can pick up the FREE book at the Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board offices, located at 2337 Clermont Center Drive, Batavia, Ohio 45103.  A discussion of the book is scheduled for Tuesday April 29, 2014 from noon to 2pm at the Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board’s  meeting room located at the above address.  Please bring your lunch –  refreshments will be provided.  For more information, please call Mary Wolff, Cultural and Linguistic Competence Coordinator for FAST TRAC at 732-5415.

April Youth Event at UC Clermont

For our April event, we took some youth and young adults to UC Clermont for a campus tour, a presentation, and lunch.  All the youth had a great time.  The event was a good opportunity for youth who were on the fence about attending college, giving them a chance to explore career paths and  to see if college may be a good option.  One of the most interesting things was learning more about financial aid.  Did you know some students have the option to go to UC Clermont for absolutely no charge?  That’s right, financial aid can sometimes cover everything.  If you are a youth or young adult and are interested in looking into college and missed the April event, please contact me as we will be working to plan another UC visit.  My contact information is at the bottom of this article.

Also, not to forget our upcoming events, on May 10th from 11:30am to 3:00pm, we are hosting our first Independence City.  Independence City is a simulated “life on your own” game in which youth will learn basic life skills and how to overcome barriers.  This event is free for all Clermont County youth and will be held at the Child Focus Training Center.  Wrap Camp is slated to start up again in June.  This is a summer day camp for Wraparound youth.  Last year we went to the YMCA once a week.  We also played laser tag and went to Woodland Mound.  We are looking for Program Aides for Wrap Camp.  These positions are paid!  If interested, contact Danny Little by email dlittle@gcbhs.com or by phone (513)305-3471.

Family Involvement & Leadership

By Jean Houston, FAST TRAC Lead Family Contact

On March 22, 2014, we started the third family leadership series.  We began with a retreat at Woodland Lakes.  The weather was cool, but no one seemed to mind as we worked toward building our trust and awareness of other’s needs during those first two hours.  One example of the trust building we did was to blindfold a few people and give them a large rope to form into a square.  The trust came through by working diligently and giving precise auditory directions to help them move about in a way so they could succeed and form the shape.

Lunch followed and the conversations began among the participants. We talked about what we bring to the table when we begin the venture to discover our desire to support our family and whether we want to go further and become involved in community issues.  We looked at our “baggage” and how that affects our ability to be open to hear what others are saying.

Mary Wolff, FAST TRAC Cultural and Linguistic Competence Coordinator, facilitated a session titled “OUCH! That Stereotype Hurts.”  This diversity training brought us together to discuss ways to appropriately respond when we hear remarks about an individual or a group of people that makes us feel uneasy or angry.

We discussed what a leader looks like to the participants.  Each table used a large sheet of paper to write down their ideas and then came up with one description they agreed was their definition of a leader. We talked about how changes have occurred throughout history.  Those changes did not occur because of campaigns by professionals, but rather came about due to parents and those who believed in the cause; advocating for changes from the local to the national level.  Some of those changes were children with disabilities being educated with peers through the advocacy to create IDEA, the special education law; creating the United Cerebral Palsy Organization and The Arc, among others.

Recognizing the needs of children/youth who have mental health issues and accompanying behavioral challenges, and ensuring they get an appropriate education, is the “new” challenge for the parents and advocates of those children.  Families face many challenges as they look toward the future of their children.  They must learn how to maneuver within the systems their children may be involved in by learning the language of the systems.

This group gives the opportunity to do just that.  We bring agency persons who can give insight and resources to families.  This series of sessions will provide an opportunity to learn about the systems, working within a group, advocating for your family and others, and expanding  your leadership skills to reach out to another family and share what you have learned to guide them toward locating supports. Parents often feel isolated and overwhelmed, but when someone understands what you are going through, the stress level is lowered.  Helping each other is how advocacy was born and changes occurred for children.

The next meeting of the Family Leadership group will be on Saturday, May 17, 2014 9:00a-3:00 pm.  The series ends on Saturday, September 13, 2014.  Sessions are held at the Mental Health & Recovery Board. Childcare and lunch will be provided.

If you are committed to the challenge and would like to learn more about the Family Leadership series, please give me a call at 513-732-5034.

Cultural Conversations Book Club: Waking up White

Cultural Conversations

Book Club

Selection: Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving:

For 25 years, Debby Irving sensed inexplicable racial tensions in her personal and professional relationships.  As a colleague and neighbor, she worried about offending people she dearly wanted to befriend.  As an arts administrator, she didn’t understand why her diversity effort lacked traction.  As a teacher, she found her best efforts to reach out to students and families of color left her wondering what she was missing.  Then in 2009, one “aha!” moment launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan.

FREE for Clermont County Residents and Agencies who are interested in participating!

Book Club Discussion Meeting

Date:  Tuesday April 29, 2014

Noon to 2pm

Location:  Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board

Bring your lunch.  Drinks and dessert provided.

To participate please contact: Mary Wolff at mwolff.ft@ccmhrb.org  or call 633-1049.

What’s Youth-Guided?

By: Danny Little, Youth Engagement Specialist

So when you hear the term “youth-guided care,” what exactly does that mean?  It means that youth have an important voice that needs to be heard. Youth should be involved as decision makers in policies and procedures that affect them and other youth in their community. This includes youth having the opportunity to sit on workgroups and boards as well as their own decision making advisory board. Youth also have the opportunity to choose and participate in trainings that will help them in becoming productive members of our community.

Our FAST TRAC youth group usually meets twice a month, once for the Youth Advisory Board and the second time for either a training or fun event, even though sometimes we may get together more than that.  For our fun events, we may go to a baseball game or sometimes we just hang out and play the Wii. Some recent events include the cardboard boat regatta in New Richmond on August 20th and a grill out for our transition aged youth group on Sept. 8th.  As far as the trainings, the youth pick what topics they feel are important and that they can learn something from.  Youth are also members of FAST TRAC workgroups, providing input into the discussions and decisions that are made.

So how can you become involved? You can reach me at dlittle.ft@ccmhrb.org or call 513-732-5417 for more information.


About Your Family Support System

Families_Connected_logo_CFFamilies Connected of Clermont County is a grassroots parent organization that was founded by two parents with a passion “to help” children and adults with disabilities.  Through the passion and devotion of Jean Houston and Brenda Cox, who had the desire to inform and empower other families, a family disability organization was born!  Though the two had worked together since meeting in 1992, Families Connected was formed in 1999 when a grant from the Mental Health and Recovery Board was received and the Clermont Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD) found space for the families to gather at the Wildey facility.

Families Connected was started to “support and connect families who have a member with a disability.”  They provide services parent to parent, with no charge to families.  They have the unique situation of receiving support and funding from both the DD and mental health systems in Clermont County.  Their services are providing resources and referrals to community agencies and support groups, educational advocacy, and Peer to Peer support in the mental health field.  They work toward making all families aware of their options and strive to help them become educated about systems, including special education mandates.  They believe families who have knowledge are more informed to make good decisions for their children and families.

Families Connected has evolved since their beginning and have expanded their support through a grant received by the Clermont County Mental Health & Recovery Board in 2009.  This grant is provided through the United States Department of Health & Human Services, Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.  A goal of the grant is to enhance and expand mental health services within Clermont County.  Families Connected is the chosen family organization to work within Clermont County toward making a change in how services are provided.

The grant, named FAST TRAC, is working to make changes to how services are delivered.  Services should be family-driven and youth-guided.  This means families and their children are active team members who help make decisions regarding services.  Jean is the Lead Family Contact for FAST TRAC and she supervises four Peer Support Partners, each of whom has had a family member involved in at least one system (i.e. mental health, juvenile court, DD).  The Peer Support Partners have had broad training and have regular in service trainings to better support families and make a difference in their lives.  They are part of the Wraparound team to support families and make contact with families through calls and home visits.  Learn more about Clermont FAST TRAC at www.clermontfasttrac.org.  Learn more about Families Connected by calling 513-732-5034 or visiting the new website: www.clermontcountyfamiliesconnected.org

Families Connected staff also serve as the Help Me Grow Family (HMG) Support Specialists for families of children birth to 3 years.  They provide information regarding trainings, support at meetings at the parent’s request and also provide respite for families enrolled in the Clermont County Help Me Grow program.  This break allows caregivers a chance to re-energize, so they may continue to provide care for their child with a disability.  Brenda provides “Child Find” awareness for HMG, while Lamonica Friedman is the Support Specialist who most often contacts families.   Learn more about Help Me Grow at www.clermonthelpmegrow.com


Evaluation Update

Over the past year, the UC Evaluation Team put considerable effort into planning and revising FAST TRAC’s data collection efforts in order to improve the consistency and the quality of the data.  In the fall, the team met with each program and when necessary, made appropriate changes to several instruments.  Priorities for Year 5 of the grant were determined by each program. The UC Evaluation Team agreed to take on the publication of two distinct but related series of quarterly Evaluation Briefs focused on each local program: one geared toward legislators and other professionals and one geared towards families and other community members. The first “Family Brief” focused on School-based Mental Health Services is now available (click here to view the Family Brief).    The “Provider Brief” focused on the Wraparound Program is currently under development and will be presented to the Evaluation Workgroup during our February 2014 meeting. We anticipate that a final version of this Brief will be ready for dissemination by mid-March.

One noteworthy evaluation activity occurred in November, when the evaluation team partnered with Clermont County Juvenile Court’s Probation Department to gather juvenile records of over 300 FAST TRAC participants.  Basic information for each youth was collected to determine the number of days in detention and on probation before and after enrolling in FAST TRAC. These data will help determine the impact FAST TRAC has had on the costs of services to the county. The Transition to Independence (TIP) program staff is also very interested in the juvenile data and we are exploring ways to obtain permission from TIP participants to access adult correctional records.

Another noteworthy evaluation activity last quarter was the pilot testing of the “Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts” cultural competency workshop, including a three month follow-up assessment of participant attitudes, knowledge, and skills. The follow-up assessment had a 75% response rate with 93 % of the respondents stating they have used the skills they learned in the workshop either at home (51%) or at work or at a social function (36%).

The National Evaluation was also fortunate to recruit three new Family Interviewers in mid-2013 to assist with data collection. The three additions to the team are parents of special needs youth who have been involved with the system of care in Clermont County.  Their experiences and enthusiasm has resulted in acquiring 60% of potential follow-up interviews which provides valuable information on changes in family and youth dynamics over time. Since the inception of the National Evaluation in February 2011, 170 families have been enrolled in the study.  The goals related to the National Evaluation will be to continue to actively seek the engagement and participation of families in the study as well as manage the data collected in an effective manner so that all available information is utilized.

At the close of 2013, the UC Evaluation team had a lot to celebrate beyond the typical holiday season.  Two presentation proposals were accepted for the 27th Annual Children’s Mental Health Research and Policy Conference, in Tampa FL March 2 – 5, 2014.  Jonathan Sutter will be presenting information about the recent transition to the WFI-EZ and the benefits of using tablet technology to collect this information.  Rachel Smith will be presenting findings from a methodological study based on FAST TRAC longitudinal data that describe youth, caregiver, and family-level factors that place caregivers of youth with behavioral health challenges at risk for study attrition.

From your UC Evaluation Team, have a safe and happy New Year!


Staff Highlight – Chanel Bayless

ChanelChanel Bayless, Peer Support Partner

 Originally, I’m from Georgia, but I’ve been a long time citizen of Clermont County, having grown up in Milford and living more than a decade in New Richmond. 

I have five children.  My fourth child, who is now an adult, is diagnosed with Autism. He is working on gaining skills so that he can live a full and independent life and I have to say that I’m really proud of his accomplishments.  While it’s been a challenge finding and placing the right services throughout his life, we never give up.

Some of my own accomplishments include being a published author and I wrote a proposal for a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) program for parents that are triggered by their children’s behavioral and mental health presentations.  This proposal was a success and the PTSD group is the first of its kind in Clermont County!  I am also a former member of the Family and Children First Council and the FAST TRAC Parent Advisory Group. 

Overcoming challenges has always been a consistent theme in my own life, and it’s always been important for me to help others through their challenging times. 

I’m really excited to be a Peer Support Partner.

New Website!

Over the course of the last 8 months, we’ve been working on consolidating the websites for FAST TRAC and Family & Children First (FCF).  We feel that consolidating the websites will make it easier for everyone to find the information that they’re looking for, whether it’s how to make a referral to Wraparound, what schools have School-Based Mental Health Services available, or when is the next family event.  You will also find the following, on the website: 

  • Areas designated to each of the Core Areas of FAST TRAC System of Care:  Family-driven, Youth guided, Culturally & Linguistically Competent (CLC), and Evaluation
  • Information on each area that FAST TRAC has enhanced or developed:  Wraparound, TIP, Peer Support Partner program, School-Based Mental Health, Early Childhood Mental Health, Respite, and home-based services
  • Information on FCF initiatives, such as Help Me Grow and the Home Visitor program
  • Past newsletters and articles of interest
  • Photo gallery of My Feelings Are a Work of Art projects/activities
  • A color coded calendar so you can easily find the next family, youth, or CLC event or an upcoming FAST TRAC workgroup or FCF Council meeting (coming soon!)
  • Testimonials from families who have worked with FAST TRAC services/supports
  • Evaluation Briefs
  • Information on upcoming trainings
  • Staff contact information
  • School Resource guide
  • Community Resource guide
  • Link to make a secure referral to the Wraparound program

Please take a look at the consolidated website at www.clermontfasttrac.org – we hope you like it! 

Gretchen Behimer, LISW-S

FAST TRAC Project Director/FCF Program Director

Cultural Conversations Lunch & Learn Movie

Please join us for the Cultural Conversations Lunch and Learn Movie and Discussion.  The selection is “A Beautiful Mind”, directed by Ron Howard.  This Academy Award winning movie depicts the true story of mathematician John Nash and his wife as they struggle to manage his mental illness.  The film is rated PG-13.   We will watch the movie while eating lunch and then have a ½ hour discussion about the cultural themes of this particular movie.  The program is open to all Clermont County Residents and Agencies who are interested in participating and is offered for FREE.  Please bring your lunch.  Drinks and cookies will be provided. 

Please contact Mary Wolff at mwolff.ft@ccmhrb.org or call 633-1049 for more information.

Date:  Tuesday February 25, 2014

Location:  Child Focus Training Center

551B Cincinnati-Batavia Pike

Cincinnati, Ohio 45244