Peer To Peer Good Low Cost Alternative

Sept. 28--Saint Joseph, Missouri   A local mental health agency plans to change its business model for providing service in October.

Circle of H.O.P.E. (Home Opportunities Parents & Professionals Empowerment) will change its services to a community engagement model. Instead of using two service delivery teams, one at Family Guidance Center and another at Northwest Health Services, the agency will expand the Family Support Partners portion of its care services.

"What we're hearing from families in the community is that they want multiple access points, and we know children with mental health issues get a variety of services from a variety of agencies, so through this new approach we will be able to outsource Family Support Partners into lots of different community agencies," said Andrea Aderton, Circle of H.O.P.E. project director.

The role of Family Support Partners will be to assist families in navigating the system of care. They will direct families to appropriate services and support while providing guidance.

There will be five Family Support Partners located and/or employed by participating agencies in the community. Currently there are six Family Support Partners.

This change, which will take place Friday, comes as a result of funding cuts to the program.

Circle of H.O.P.E. is a collaborative community effort designed to serve children and youths from age 5 to 13 who have a diagnosis of severe or moderate emotional disturbances. When it was formed in 2006, the agency was funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to the tune of $9 million.

In October, the agency will lose $500,000 as its funding begins to drop yearly before ending in 2012.

"There have been tremendous cutbacks in funding for mental health, and as a result we had to change," said Charles Salanski, executive director of The Center, a mental health agency in St. Joseph.

Mr. Salanski also wanted to assure the public that the level of service will not decrease.

"We think peer to peer is a good low-cost alternative," Ms. Aderton said.