Episode 1: Pam Evans of the Family Service and Guidance Center of Topeka

Transcription

Clint Patty:

Well, hello there. Welcome to Investing in Good, a podcast that shines a spotlight on those making a profound impact within Northeast Kansas. This podcast is proudly presented by Clayton Wealth Partners, your partner in philanthropic financial planning for individual donors and investment management for endowments, foundations, and nonprofit organizations. In each episode, we’re going to sit down with the remarkable leaders and dedicated workers of nonprofits across the state of Kansas. So join us as we journey through the heartbeat of our local communities. Let’s celebrate the successes, point out the challenges and the opportunities that these folks face each and every day. Stay tuned now as we delve into our next inspiring story on Investing in Good.

Welcome, wherever you’re joining us from today, to Clayton Wealth Partners’ first Investing in Good podcast. I’m Clint Patty. I’m the managing partner at Clayton Wealth Partners, and we are ready to start a journey today that’s going to take us throughout Northeast Kansas and visit with some great, great people doing good works throughout our communities. I’m proud today to have, as our very first guest, Pam Evans, who is the Director of Marketing and Development for Family Service and Guidance Center. Pam, welcome.

Pam Evans:

Thank you so much for having me. I’m honored I’m your first guest.

Clint Patty:

Well, as you know, this being a first attempt, we are going to try to avoid as many technical glitches as possible and allow you to get out the wonderful story of Family Service and Guidance Center and all of the great things that you’re doing all across Shawnee County. So Pam, with that, tell us a little bit about Family Service and Guidance Center.

Pam Evans:

Sure, happy to. So Family Service and Guidance Center has been around since 1904, so long standing tradition of responding to community needs, families’, kids’ needs in Northeast Kansas. To give you a quick snapshot, we are the only community mental health center in the entire state that specializes in treating kids’ and families’ mental health challenges. That can be anything from a child struggling with the loss of a loved one, or maybe parents are divorcing, all the way up to a teenager who is in such a deep depression that he or she is thinking about taking their own life. So it’s very difficult work, but very rewarding. And just the changes and improvements we see in kids once we start working with them, it’s just awe inspiring.

Clint Patty:

So you’ve covered a very, very broad section of issues, and these are issues that quite frankly would be difficult for parents to deal with, even in a one-on-one basis, having one child having these issues, let alone maybe having several. Can you give us an idea of just how widespread this problem is throughout Northeast Kansas?

Pam Evans:

And really, you can even look at this like nationwide. One in five children will have some sort of a mental health challenge. Our top diagnoses, we see ADHD is the very top one. Anxiety, depression, and trauma that the kids come, and families come to us challenged by. So it is very common. There’s still the stigma out there. But if one positive thing came out of COVID, boy, do we talk a lot more openly about mental health challenges as a society. So people are more willing to open up and get help.

Clint Patty:

So with the reduction of that stigma, which is a wonderful thing, how many folks does that translate to in the community? Just how many folks are you providing these services to?

Pam Evans:

Yeah. In 2022, we had nearly 4,300 active clients.

Speaker 3:

And those are all over the state?

Pam Evans:

Majority is in Shawnee County.

Speaker 3:

Okay.

Pam Evans:

However, because we are such a specialty, since we do specialize in helping kids and their families, we had folks come from 33 Kansas counties.

Clint Patty:

And I would assume with rural counties, that there are some particular challenges.

Pam Evans:

We focus our services, programs to Shawnee County. Out west, they may have nine, 15 counties that they are serving. Definitely challenging.

Clint Patty:

So let’s go back a little bit and talk about the issue of stigma in the mental health field, and how that… I think we all agree that certainly the stigma that was once attached with mental health issues is certainly not as great as it used to be, but how does Family Service and Guidance Center help families that maybe are struggling with thinking of it as a stigma in getting past that and getting the help that they need?

Pam Evans:

Yeah, a couple of different things come to mind. As we’re talking with folks out in the community, having those conversations, it’s really… Getting the word out and explaining that if your child had a broken arm, you’d take them to the doctor, if they had a toothache, you’d take them to a dentist, they’re having trouble seeing, you take them to an eye doctor. Just because mental health, those challenges, you can’t see them, doesn’t mean, A, they’re not real, because holy cow, are they real. But it’s brain health. It’s brain development. When we see kids come in, when they are dealing with challenges, it’s their brain processing and maybe in a different way than another child might be processing. Or maybe we will see some kids whose a family member or mom was using drugs in utero, they might have some brain damage. And when they come in and work with us, we are basically trying to repeat and teach them to help, in oversimplified terms, retrain their brain, if you will.

Another way that we’re trying to normalize mental health, we have since 19… No, excuse me. Since 2018, we have been working with high school students throughout Shawnee County, and they all get together on a quarterly basis. It was initially just really focusing on youth suicide prevention, but they took it and ran. And they are doing things to help promote mental wellness.

Clint Patty:

High school students that you all have helped in assisting in suicide prevention techniques, they are taking those lessons into their schools and helping their peers.

Pam Evans:

We provide the meeting space, we bring the pizza in, all that good stuff. But the idea, the general idea was, first meeting, we wanted to hear what they were hearing and seeing in their schools and how we could help support them. And it’s just kind of grown to, there are a couple of school districts where the high school kids, students are working with their peers to have tables at their sporting events, providing information or promo items that we have provided with suicide prevention, the 988 number. And the kids are super passionate about helping their peers, and how can they support one of their friends who’s struggling, because they do… If a child is struggling, really thinking about harming themselves or others, they’re going to go to their peers first, as opposed to an adult like us.

Clint Patty:

That would seem like a way more effective way to reach kids, through their peers rather than trying to be an adult hammering the information to them.

Pam Evans:

Yeah, they’re amazing. Every time I sit in a meeting, they are just inspirational. If you really just sit and listen to our youth and listen to their challenges and provide the support, they’re our future.

Clint Patty:

So describe a little bit the way Family Service and Guidance Center works. If I have a child with a mental health issue and I want to show up at your doorstep, what do I do? What are the steps that I would take to get some help from Family Service and Guidance Center?

Pam Evans:

Right. Right. Great question. Well, we are out in the community at a lot of different events because we want to be visible and want for people to know that we are here to support them. There are a lot of nonprofits, a lot of phenomenal nonprofits, might I add, in Northeast Kansas that help kids in a variety of different ways. But our key in being out in the community is letting them know that we specialize in the depression, the anxiety, provide a lot of outpatient therapy groups, first and foremost, crisis services. So we always encourage folks that stop by our tables. They’re like, “Well, we don’t know if this is normal kid behavior, this age appropriate behavior, or is it more?” We always encourage them to come in for an initial appointment, and they’ll be asked a battery of questions. And in that initial… And I will go back to how that process.

Speaker 3:

Yeah [inaudible 00:10:27]

Pam Evans:

Yeah.

Speaker 3:

… is it that they talk to-

Pam Evans:

Absolutely.

Speaker 3:

[inaudible 00:10:31] that kind of [inaudible 00:10:31]

Pam Evans:

Yes. But after they go through the process and they find that it’s not… Maybe it is just typical age appropriate behavior. We’ll let them know that, maybe give the parents some tips and support. But as far as the process, we also have, on our website, a kid’s mental health quiz that might help the parent or guardian assess the age appropriate behavior versus that there might be a problem here. But really to get started, folks can call our main number 232-5005, and let them know that they would like to come in for an admission, and the person will help kind of navigate that, or you can go online at fsgctopeka.com and fill out a pre-registration form. At that first appointment, it’s a lot of paperwork, as typical you would imagine. But once that is done, at that first appointment, your family will meet with a clinician who will, again, gather a lot of information, but really kind of assess where the child or teen is.

And if we find that maybe a child is teetering on needing some crisis prevention, we’ll get them hooked up with our crisis services folks because our goal is to prevent, prevent, prevent those services. And then at that point, after that first appointment, then it will really be determine what kinds of programs and services would be best to help each child, because every child and family is different. And you’ll work very closely with the staff member to create that individual individualized treatment plan.

Clint Patty:

So these treatment plans, are they onsite? Are they remote? Are they offsite? How do those individual treatment plans work?

Pam Evans:

Good question. It depends. Most of the time if someone’s coming in for outpatient, they come in for that initial appointment, most of the time it will be on our campus, which is just east of 6th and Gage. However, over the past four years, we have been providing a lot of services, including therapy and case management, within the schools themselves. When it initially started, there was, and there still continues to be a lot of focus on kids who are in foster care because they’ve gone through a lot, a lot of trauma, a lot of challenges. There are a lot of families that we know have barriers, whether it be transportation to get to our facility, or overall distrust, lots of things. But we are now providing those services in the schools. Because that’s where the kids are, the families are more comfortable with that environment. So we are doing a lot in the schools, but not all Shawnee County Schools.

Clint Patty:

So Pam, if you could, give us a little bit a brief history lesson about Family Service and Guidance Center. When we talked earlier, you had mentioned that it was started in the early 1900s in response to a flood event, which I certainly had never heard that.

Pam Evans:

The things you learn. But over the years, we had a girls, these are way back when, a girl’s cooking school. And I not too terribly long ago, learned that we had the first kindergarten for African-American kids west of the Mississippi.

Speaker 3:

That’s amazing. What year was that?

Pam Evans:

You would ask me that.

Speaker 3:

It was way back when.

Pam Evans:

It was way back when.

Speaker 3:

It was after 1905.

Pam Evans:

Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. But over the years, it’s always been… The mission has always been very proactive, but always in support of the community needs. That has always been the focus. We used to treat all age ranges. When the state hospitals closed and Menninger moved, that was a big transitionary time. And in 1984, that is when we made the decision that we really needed to focus our time and talents on treating kids and their family.

Clint Patty:

So in general, what is the age range that you provide services for?

Pam Evans:

We have a preschool age group, groups, I should say. They’re half day programs for between two years old and up to through first grade, I believe, for little ones who have basically been kicked out of their community daycare or preschool because of behaviors.

Clint Patty:

These are truly troubled kids.

Pam Evans:

Yeah. Yeah. And to no fault of their own. You asked, how does a 2-year-old get to that point? We’ve talked about a little bit about trauma, abuse, drug use, violence in the home. When they’re that young, their brain is developing at such a fast rate, and they’re little sponges. It has a dramatic impact on brain development. So two-ish is where we start youngest wise, up through the late teenage years. And we do have a few young adults that we still treat and support. So it really is a broad range. And it can be kids who maybe are only on medication, maybe they have graduated through all other therapy and other programs and supports, and maybe they’re only on medication to the highest needs kids who have so many different programs and services wrapped around them just to keep them stable and out of the hospital.

Clint Patty:

So I’ve had the opportunity through the years to attend your annual Works of Heart event, and the absolute highlight of those events for anyone who’s been there are the testimonials that you have from the young adults in the room who’ve been able to be a part of Family Service and Guidance Center, receive treatment, and transform their lives. And could you just talk briefly about some of the success stories that you’ve had and some of the testimonials?

Pam Evans:

Thank you so much for asking. Yeah, I’m very, very pleased and proud to say we do have a lot of success stories, and we know there are a lot more out there. But yeah, I can think of a couple in particular. Soon after I started working at Family Service and Guidance Center, I learned we have a very specialized anxiety treatment program, works with kids who may have super high social anxiety or phobias, performance anxiety, those types of things.

Clint Patty:

And can you speak to… It would seem to me that today, we’re much more comfortable about talking about anxiety with kids. It just feels like it is a more prevalent problem today. Can you speak just a little bit to that, please?

Pam Evans:

Yes. And even before the pandemic, we’re seeing increases in a lot of different areas. Anxiety was definitely one that’s on the high side, unfortunately. But soon after I started, I learned about a young girl who was in the anxiety treatment program, and this young lady was a grade school aged kiddo, and she was absolutely petrified of dogs. You think what? Petrified of dogs? Don’t get it. And I never did learn the backstory. However, petrified of dogs to the extent that when her friends asked her over to spend the night, well, she knew that her friend had a dog. Well, she couldn’t go spend the night. She was that scared, that frightened, paralyzed by fear.

Halloween, that time of year you get to go out and trick or treat, that’s right of childhood, right? She could not go trick or treating because that house might, or might not, but might have a dog. She went through the program. And that program is really a relatively short treatment span, six to 10 months-ish. The clinician walked her through, in a very gradual manner, exposing her to dogs. Maybe it started with a video, watch a video of a dog, then maybe you read a book about a dog, then you went to the pet store to see a dog, working her up to petting a dog and whatnot. She graduated the program and she got her childhood back.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that’s fantastic.

Pam Evans:

So she was then soon staying the night. And that next Halloween, out trick or treating. And it’s those little things that me coming in when I was new, I didn’t have a concept of how mental health challenges can truly shackle even kids. You don’t think that. I never had it happen to me, so I didn’t understand. Another one was a young teenager who was very close to her grandmother, and grandmother passed away. I believe she was 13 or 14. And she was just beside herself, could not… Just unbelievably struggling. And she fell into a not so good crowd at school, starting using drugs. And mom got a phone call one afternoon from the school counselor and was horrified to learn that her daughter was thinking about taking her own life. She told somebody who told the counselor. I can’t imagine.

So she spent quite a bit of time with our crisis counselors, and we wrapped lots of programs and services around her family. And I’m happy to say that she actually is still here in the area. Last August, she was our in-person speaker at Works of Heart. And she had just had a baby, she’s working full time, has a great boyfriend, and just enjoying life and succeeding.

Clint Patty:

But for that intervention, a life that might not be here and thriving right now?

Pam Evans:

Absolutely. And she said that, and her mom said that. She said, “I lost all hope.” And because our staff members truly cared and asked her questions, and most importantly listened to how she was feeling, she felt supported, and she knew there were a lot of people who had her back.

Clint Patty:

So this kind of work obviously requires trained clinicians, counselors, people in a very highly specialized field of work. Are you having the same issues that everyone else seems to have today in hiring and retaining talent? How has that challenge been for Family Service and Guidance Center?

Pam Evans:

Unfortunately, yeah, we’re in that same boat as so many other companies, nonprofits, industries are. We are actively recruiting for clinicians. Boy, we could use a good number of clinicians just to meet the need. And I’m hearing too, it’s not just us, just like with other industries, but it’s not just us, private practitioners, other group practices when you’re talking about the mental health field. And not just here in Topeka, it’s statewide, and it’s nationwide.

Clint Patty:

So for anyone who is in the profession or thinking about getting into it, you would be somebody that they could reach out to and talk to about partnering with and working with Family Service and Guidance Center?

Pam Evans:

Absolutely. And it’s not just the jobs. Yes, obviously, there are a lot of one-on-one or direct contact with the kids and families who are struggling. But just like all other businesses, there are more administrative jobs out there and whatnot. But talk about… I’ve been with the organization for almost 11 years now, and each and every person, no matter what their role, whether it be the person at the front desk that greets our clients to our facilities folks who keeps everything rolling and clean and looking great to the staff members who work with the families, they all have the hugest hearts and just want to help the kids and families in Northeast Kansas. And I couldn’t ask for a better workplace.

Clint Patty:

I was just doing some quick math in my head, which is always a little bit dangerous, but you talked earlier about how at any one time you might be treating some 5,000 kids across Shawnee County in northeast Kansas. I know our latest census shows, we have about 180,000 people in the county. That is a huge number and a huge percentage of the number of kids that live in this county that are receiving some help and treatment from Family Service and Guidance Center. And I just wondered if you had any read on just how, in terms of a percentage wise, how widespread these problems really are?

Pam Evans:

I don’t have a specific number. It’s really difficult to nail down, of course. But we know that there are kids and teens out there that haven’t gotten the help that they need. And we do everything we can to help support, whether it be through direct services, or we have the Happy Bear Abuse Prevention Program where Happy Bear goes into preschool classrooms.

Clint Patty:

Yes, we had a Happy Bear, when both my kids were little, came to their classrooms. And it’s such a wonderful program and deals with a very difficult subject, but in a way parents and kids can talk about it.

Pam Evans:

Thank you so much. Yeah, that is an abuse prevention program that has been going on for more than 30 years. And know for a fact that it has prevented a lot of abuse. We had a success story, a young girl who went to her counselor. She’d seen Happy Bear earlier that year, went to her school counselor and said, “Grandpa’s giving me mixed up touch. I have mixed up touch.” And come to find out after they did a lot of looking into it, and unfortunately the child was being groomed for abuse. But because the young lady had the words that weren’t scary to her, and she had the strength and the confidence and knew that she could trust the counselor, that that was prevented. So lots of different ways that we do everything we can for the community to support and help.

Clint Patty:

I feel like we could have an entire podcast with you just about the success stories, which is wonderful. But my question for you is, with all of the great work, with all of the wonderful people doing the great work there, what can we do in Northeast Kansas? What can this community do to help family service and guidance center?

Pam Evans:

Thank you for asking that question. Because there’s so much need, thankfully, there are a lot of different ways to support. We’re very active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and provide a lot of information to families, parenting information and whatnot. But from the support, and particularly fundraising. We have now, let’s see, this next year, it’ll be 18 years, the Works of Heart Gala. It will be… We already have a date for next year.

Speaker 3:

When is that?

Pam Evans:

Saturday, August 17th of 2024. And that will be downtown here at Town Site Avenue Ballroom. That is our big signature gala where we celebrate 10 to 13, 15 client artists. In addition… Well, let me back up. They are the stars of the evening. They bring their parents, and they sit beside their artwork and talk with guests during the reception. But the main event is the live auction. When they go up and stand beside their piece of artwork that they created, which by the way, oh my gosh, they’re amazing. A lot of these kids they haven’t had… This might be the first time they’re being celebrated for just who they are. So just to watch the pride, it’s just amaze.

Clint Patty:

It’s a unique event. I’ve been to a lot of these events like this throughout northeast Kansas, but I’d have to say that Works of Heart, in a very singular way, has that unique aspect, which is really wonderful.

Pam Evans:

It really is. And it’s because it’s all about the kids. And of course, we do have other fun things. We have a silent auction, and it’s online. So folks, even if you can’t get tickets, if you get too late and tickets were sold out, because most of the time, we are sold out, but you can bid online and have a wide variety of professional artwork pieces. It’s just a super great event that focuses on the kids, but also obviously raises funds for us to continue to serve more kids and more families in the future.

Clint Patty:

So is there anything else that you would like the community to know about? We’ve talked about Works of Heart. Obviously, we’ve talked about all the amazing work that’s done each and every day at Family Service and Guidance Center, but other things, other events that you’ve got going on or things that you would just like the community to know more about?

Pam Evans:

One very big accomplishment that definitely want to share here, earlier in October, we opened up a very unique facility. It is our Youth Crisis and Recovery Center building that is really one of a kind in the area and in the state on the whole. So it is a new building that we constructed on our campus. It has 24 beds, and 16 of those are reserved for kids who are in crisis and/or our higher needs clients who, in order to keep them out of the hospital, we have a respite program to where it is a planned night where the child will come… And again, I want to stress these are high needs kids that could… If they escalate, and if we don’t keep them stable, they could very easily need to be in a hospital, will come and stay with us for a night. And it allows a break from the parents to the kids, the kids to the parents. And while they’re here, while they’re staying with us, they have groups, they have therapy. So it’s not just a night away staying over at a friend’s house.

So 16 of the 24 beds are dedicated to crisis and respite. And then the remaining eight beds will be for kids who are in crisis and/or, well, not and/or, kids who are in crisis having severe mental health challenges and are using substances. That’s something that we saw. And even before the pandemic, this project has been planned and talked about for probably four or five years. But the needs that kids who have mental health challenges, they self-medicate because they don’t have those coping mechanisms. And then it becomes just a concurrent problem. So we’ve been doing this program with the substance use and mental health treatment on an outpatient basis. But very soon, we’ll have those eight beds to continue that for kids who are using and maybe higher needs. So this new building, oh my gosh, it replaces the one at 8th and Lane.

Speaker 3:

Okay.

Pam Evans:

Much lower traffic location. But the biggest thing I want to share, and this is where it’s game changing, at the old facility, kids could stay with us for three days. Now, we can get a lot of work done in three days, but the new facility will have a maximum stay of 28.

Speaker 3:

Wow.

Pam Evans:

Talk about the ability to drill down, to provide enhanced… They will have individual group and family therapy wrapping around for up to 28 days. Now, not everyone’s going to need 28.

Speaker 3:

Sure.

Pam Evans:

But having that ability and keeping them right here in the community instead of parents having to drive an hour or more-

Clint Patty:

Wow, that is terrific news. That is a game changer, for sure. So a final question from me to you is, for parents or children who are struggling with mental health issues, how are they able then to pay for the services that Family Service and Guidance Center provides? I know that probably is a concern for everybody. And can you lift the veil a little bit on how that works?

Pam Evans:

Great question. And as you can imagine, I think that’s probably the first question of parents. “Oh my God, am I going to have to pay out of pocket?” I’m happy to say that the state of Kansas, when it comes to getting kids and teens insured, it is pretty darn good coverage when it comes to… And I’m approaching it from the mental health aspect, mental health coverage. A lot of times, we might have families who come in and say, “We don’t have any insurance for our kiddos.” Our staff says, “Okay, no worries.” We’re used to filling these forms out. And we’ll walk with them, walk through the forms with them to help them get the coverage. And that, 70, I think in 2022, 71% of our clients were on Medicaid. So that’s a lot. That’s a big number. It’s a big number. But again, the likelihood of kids having coverage is pretty darn high, which is great, because that removes that barrier. However, having said that too, mental health challenges, it doesn’t matter what your zip code is.

Speaker 3:

That’s the truth.

Pam Evans:

If you live out in a really nice area of town, unfortunately, your child may well have challenges too. We all do at some point in time, I’m convinced. But we do accept all insurances, all private insurance. Now, with the caveat, not all policies are the same, and coverages vary. But we do accept all insurance. And on the off chance, and this doesn’t happen often, but on the off chance that for whatever reason a family cannot get coverage, we have a sliding scale to make sure that it is affordable for a family to get the treatment that the child needs to succeed.

Clint Patty:

So as we exit here, you and I, Pam, share a very strong affinity for the Kansas City Royals baseball team. I quite imagine, although we’ve gone well over 30 minutes here, if you and I were to tag the Royals on as a subject, we could have a podcast that would go several hours. That, however, would be a very angry podcast. And you have provided us so many stories of hope and optimism today. I’d like to give you a chance for some final thoughts and to send us out on an optimistic note.

Pam Evans:

Okay, so here’s your optimistic end. Our motto, if you will, or tagline is, because every child deserves a happy childhood. And that, as an organization, that is what each, every one of the 270 plus staff members live and breathe every day.

Clint Patty:

Well, Pam, I can’t think of a more optimistic or better way to end today’s podcast. You all have been listening to Investing in Good, brought to you by Clayton Wealth Partners. We thank you all for joining us today, and I really thank Pam Evans, the director of Marketing and Development for Family Service and Guidance Center, for being our very first guest. And so now it’s your turn. Get to know these folks. Punch them in your Google Machine, Family Service and Guidance Center. Get to know them better. They are great people doing good work in this community. And take a look at it, learn more about them, and most importantly, get involved. We will be back with another edition and another wonderful group of folks to highlight next time. And until that time, we will see you soon. Thank you.

You’ve been listening to another episode of Investing in Good. Today’s episode was brought to you by Clayton Wealth Partners. We are more than just individual wealth managers and financial planners. If you’re an individual seeking to increase your impact through thoughtful charitable giving, or if you represent an endowment, a foundation, or a nonprofit that’s looking to safeguard and grow your financial assets, please consider partnering with Clayton Wealth Partners. You can visit us at claytonwealthpartners.com and discover how we can help guide and empower you in your mission to make a difference. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast and join us next time as we delve into more stories of inspiration right in the heart of our community. On behalf of Clayton Wealth Partners, I’m Clint Patty. I thank you for listening, and we will see you soon.

 

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Clint Patty, J.D.

As Managing Partner, Clint serves on the management team providing leadership, supporting business development efforts and providing client consultation.