Rochelle Brunsdon has been the area director of Lutheran Community Services Northwest in Kennewick, Wash. since 2001. The Kennewick office doubled in size this year, and more space may be needed soon. Fueling the growth are the successful Wraparound programs.
Q1: What is Wraparound? It’s a voluntary, high-intensity program for children, youth and families based on the 10 principles of Wraparound for children with a mental health diagnosis. Wraparound is a strengths-based program that works with the whole family. We identify what families do well, and we also identify unmet needs. Unmet needs are what lead to big behaviors – we don’t call them bad behaviors. We organize and strengthen the family so they start meeting and identifying those needs so the family can be successful.
We ask families to envision their lives after we’re done working with them. Then we develop natural supports from the community to wrap around the family. All work is done through the Child and Family Team, which can include anyone from grandma, someone at school, a probation officer or the lady down the street. We work with that natural team to communicate with and support the family.
For most of our families, these are complex needs. Chaos and crisis may be on board forever, but families can be empowered to learn how to manage the challenges they face. We provide the persistent faith that they are the experts in their own family, and with support and encouragement, they will create their own lasting success.
Q2: Who is eligible for Wraparound? A child must be on Medicaid (state insurance), have a mental health diagnosis and have been served by at least two other systems of care. Those systems can include schools, juvenile justice, chemical dependency or any number of child-serving services. Children and families can self refer, or a referral can come from anyone.
Q3: What are the keys to making Wraparound work? Dogged perseverance and unwavering respect for the process of Wraparound. It’s an intensive program. Sometimes we meet with families three times a day in different places, but, we also graduate families from the program. Wraparound is designed for families to help themselves. A big key to success is our excellent staff. They’re well trained, they understand, and they believe in Wraparound.
Q4: You have two different Wraparound programs: 3 Rivers Wraparound and Wraparound with Intensive Services (WISe). What’s the difference? Our original program is 3 Rivers Wraparound that began here in 2004. It started as a promising practice, and has evolved into a fidelity evidence-based practice. It works. With this program, a family can use an outside therapist.
WISe Wraparound is causing most of our growth. It started because of a lawsuit settlement, where the state was not meeting the mental health needs of children and youth. A new system of intensive mental health treatment was found to be needed and Wraparound has been proven to work. Fidelity Wraparound (3 Rivers) is expensive to run, so the state went with what I call “Wraparound light.”
We were an early adopter in 2014-2015 because of our Wraparound experience. We’re now in the second year of a five-year roll out of this change in service delivery. Every child in this program must have an in-house therapist, a care coordinator, a family partner, a youth partner and a family support assistant. All those partners who work for us have maximum caseloads. We are particularly excited that the terms of this settlement include the ability to work with youth until age 21, addressing the gap in service for transitional youth.
Q5: Will the WISe Wraparound program keep growing? Yes. For every year we keep expanding, there will be 11 to 14 new staff hired. Our goal for WISe this year is to have 100 children and families enrolled by June 30, 2016. We had 65 at the end of August, and we’ve gotten the green light to go higher than the limit. We’ve doubled our office space, and with more children coming into the program, we’ll need even more space. What a wonderful challenge to have!