Collaborative Solutions Network seeks to simplify care options

By Steve Lawrence stevesportsdude@gmail.com

All too often, we see a newspaper headline about yet another mass shooting, or a news anchor leads off a broadcast with a story about yet another suicide, and we numbly ask — almost rhetorically — “Why didn’t someone see this coming? Why isn’t anyone doing anything about this?”

Well, someone is trying.

Jaydn McCune of Ithaca is employed by the Franziska Racker Centers, and is the director of the Collaborative Solutions Network. The CSN was formed two years ago following a federal Mental Health Integration grant.

“There was a lot of information and resources in what I would call ‘silos,’” said McCune. “The schools were one of those silos, the juvenile justice system was another, the mental health system, DSS — all had good stuff in their silos, but we saw the need to share resources and collaborate more effectively. To go, I would say, from silos to synergy.”

McCune works very closely with her assistant director, Sally Manning, and both Jaydn and Sally shared compelling testimonials from parents who have been frustrated with the lack of accessibility and lack of coordination between service delivery systems that existed before CSN.

“I could not understand why we had to hit rock bottom before we could get services,” one parent wrote. “Why did our 7-year-old son have to experience an out-of-county hospitalization before we became aware of the supports that could have helped us sooner within our own community? Something has to change.”

“Having your child diagnosed with a mental health problem is a painfully isolating experience,” another parent offered.

“I am a smart, educated and articulate person, and I could not figure out how to get help for my child,” said another parent. “What about people who are less fortunate than me?”

The CSN staff saw the need to “see things early,“ and to help families navigate the maze that is the mental health care system. In fact, CSN wants to take it a step further.

“We are actively inviting families to get involved, to be a part of the positive system change,” McCune said. “Transition points (like pre-school to school, middle school to high school, or residential or hospital treatment back into the community) are where you sometimes see things come apart if efficient systems are not in place.

“We needed to work on creating a model where we could more effectively and efficiently transition kids back into the community,” she added. “These kids are out of sight and out of mind, and people have a tendency to say, ‘Oh good, they’re fixed.’”

Unfortunately, it is more complicated than that.

“The work we are doing,” said McCune, “is the ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ thing. We need to recognize mental health challenges early and be a part of a system of care that responds in ways that are meaningful to a wide range of families.”

She paused, clarified her thought, and verbalized it, with conviction: “They are all our kids.”

The Collaborative Solutions Network operates on several income streams, including two grants from New York State: an Early Recognition Grant and a System of Care Grant. Three school districts — Lansing, South Seneca and Groton — are contributing to the work, and the Tompkins County and Seneca County departments of Mental Health, and the Tompkins County Mental Health Association round out the funding along with several private funders. The CSA puts forth an ongoing effort to “do more with less” (McCune’s words), and is in the process of expanding efforts.

“To combine our resources — both human and financial — to continue this work,” she said.

Through the work of the CSN, reflections from parents and human service providers shed a bright light on the fact that we needed to establish a “no wrong door” place for people to get connected to the support they need. Now youth, parents and professionals can call the WarmLine to get information about all of the resources in our area that support kids with mental health challenges. It is currently staffed by mental health professionals and soon will be supported by Peer Family Parters as well.

For more information, please visit www.collaborativesolutionsnetwork.org or call (607) 274-6302.