By Steve Kaufman
WHEN TERRY MEINERS GETS ROASTED AND TOASTED ON MARCH 3, THE EVENT WILL BENEFIT A LOCAL NON-PROFIT THAT SERVES MORE THAN 34,000 PEOPLE A YEAR.
About 95 percent of the people in a recent focus group said they knew the name Seven Counties Services. But only 5 percent knew what the agency did, even though it’s the largest non-profit in Kentucky.
“We serve 34,000 people a year,” said Gwen Cooper, vice president of external affairs, “and we touch them in all the various phases of their lives.”
From dealing with pregnant women with substance abuse issues and the infants they deliver, through the emotional and behavioral childhood issues, to adults suffering from developmental or addiction disorders, “we deal with the entire cradle-to-grave spectrum,” Cooper said.
It’s an especially acute problem in Kentucky, which ranks 49th out of the 50 states in an annual mental health survey conducted by Gallup and Healthways.
“Whether from smoking, poor diet or lack of exercise, unhealthy equals unhappy,” says Cooper.
As a regional community mental health center, Seven Counties is the preferred provider for behavioral health care, anyone with developmental or intellectual disabilities, a mental health issue or substance and drug abuse.
Its acute hotline for children in crisis serves 12,000 children a year.
JADAC – the 80-bed Jefferson Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center inpatient and outpatient facility that treats adults with addictions and their families –has served nearly 250,000 people.
The Lighthouse Adolescent Recovery Center is the only residential alcohol and drug treatment service in the commonwealth for adolescent girls ages 13-18.
The Crisis Stabilization Unit has a 10-day housing program for children with serious emotional disturbances. “We have a 98 percent success rate of keeping those kids out of the hospital,” Cooper said. “The goal is to get them under control, put them on a treatment plan and send them home. It costs a whole lot less in taxpayer dollars than sending them to the hospital.”
Seven Counties has counselors embedded in 130 JCPS schools, plus schools in the other six counties it serves, who can provide immediate service to a child having a behavioral issue.
“We have five or six different programs, home- or clinical-based, intended to keep families together and get kids on the path to success,” says Cooper.
There’s also a large adult division, dealing with substance abuse and treatment; a developmental intellectual services divisions; and a medical services division.
In all, Seven Counties has 1,400 employees in 21 locations serving Jefferson, Bullitt, Henry, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble counties. Not Indiana, however – not yet.
“The service is largely Medicaid-based,” Cooper explains, “and Seven Counties is not yet licensed in Indiana, though we’re working on ways to provide services in Kentucky to people who work and live in Southern Indiana.”
However, she says, there are Southern Indiana organizations that complement Seven Counties, so there’s frequent collaboration and sharing of best practices.
It all makes an important story to tell.
“When I came on board and began talking about Seven Counties,” said Cooper, “the most frequent reaction I got was, ‘Omigosh, I didn’t know Seven Counties did all that!’ ”