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Behavioral initiative to continue cost-saving efforts

July 18, 2012
Andrew Westrope - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

HARRISVILLE - According to a presentation at an Alcona County Board of Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, the Northeast Michigan Children's Behavioral Health Initiative will continue moving forward in Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties to save eventual juvenile care and court costs using a children's behavioral health program to prevent delinquent behavior.

The program came from discussions between various Northeast Michigan agencies, initiated in 2009 by Kellogg Foundation representatives and the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, about how to improve their collective services. After a series of meetings through January 2011 between 20-odd representatives of local human, health and justice agencies, the planning team decided to pursue the project to educate parents on the phases of childhood development, make adequate primary care and behavioral health services accessible to families, and establish a child advocacy center for crisis intervention and abuse prevention and response services.

President Clint Bohlen of Mackinac Health Care Consultants described it as a children's health initiative intended to treat risk factor behaviors in children, funded by a $2.4 million WK Kellogg Foundation grant applied in two phases over three years from April 2011 to March 2014. The planning phase is over, and implementation has begun.

"The idea behind this was really to establish a system by which we would expand behavioral health services to children, and that we would do that in three ways," he said, the first being through a children's advocacy center in partnership with Thunder Bay Community Health Services and Alcona Health Center. The second would be through on-site school clinics serving ages 0-12, modeled after the one at Lincoln Elementary School in Alpena and proposed for trial implementation at Ella White, Besser, and Thunder Bay Junior High schools. Bohlen said this service, already provided at Alcona Community Schools, would require more hours of the school's part-time counselor which might be paid for by the grant and would be accomplished in other areas through a partnership with the Exchange Club to recruit family or parent aides and mentors. He hoped this step could be accomplished by the end of the year, while the third part of the project - parenting and child development education - may take somewhat longer.

"We're establishing 'wrap-around' ... (which is) basically a group of agencies who are all dealing with the family, actually starting to meet formally with that family, and that family agrees to some goals, and there's a partnership with that family, and they meet on a regular basis in the pursuit of achieving those goals," he said. "There is currently wrap-around for what's called 'severely emotionally disturbed.' What we're going to implement is for non-SED, so for a kid, for example, who has anxiety or panic attacks or a similar disorder that is not severe enough to classify him for human health services, we're going to provide wrap-around services for them in Alcona County."

Bohlen said he also acquired $77,000 from Kellogg, to be matched by $33,500 in state child care funds, to reboot the discontinued "Day One" abuse prevention program to serve 15 families in each of the four counties through Child and Family Services. He cited several studies about the efficacy of the programs, including one from Michigan State University that indicates every dollar spent on prevention saves $12-17 in eventual costs to treat or prosecute eventual juvenile offenders, and added that Kellogg's promise to support the program if it succeeds would be a significant benefit to the area.

"(The Kellogg Foundation) did say that, 'At the end of this project, three years, if you can do what you say - we know what your needs are, we know what life is like in your area, that's why we came up to see you guys - we will not only revisit that $3 million, but we'll become your advocate for the Council of Michigan Foundations, because right now less than 0.01 percent of all the money that's dispensed by Michigan foundations comes to Northeast Michigan,'" he said. "And Kellogg wants to change that."

Alcona County Juvenile Officer Tammy Ranger expressed support on behalf herself and Judge Laura Frawley.

"Day One we know and remember as being a great program in our county, and I've read some of the statistical information. It certainly supports the mission of the child care funds ... and I think it would be great to have that here. Young people are still going to have babies, and we do have a lot of poverty here, and we do have a lot of problem with that population," she said.

Bohlen said the goal is to start some of the services by October and asked the board to find someone to do the necessary fiduciary work for the county. The board will discuss the program further and make a decision at its Aug. 15 meeting.

In other business:

Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5693.



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