In 2016, we began to transition away from group home services and now have phased out of group home operations. It had been difficult to manage the group homes financially for many years but in the past five years the challenges became even greater. We could not offer the type of intensive programming we wanted to given the limits on income established by the Department of Children and Families, while the youth coming to the group homes presented with greater and greater challenges. This has been the toughest decision we have ever made at Orion, ending a tradition of group home services that dates back to 1991 when we were part of Sunburst Youth Homes.
This has been a time of contrasts for Orion in its mission to serve needy children and families. We expanded our In-Home Family Therapy Services to Dane County serving over 80 additional families in 2016. The focus of our work in Dane County is to assist families with younger children by building on the strengths of the parents to improve communication and parenting strategies. As we enter the New Year, we are pursuing additional opportunities to expand our family therapy services.
There are a number of exciting developments taking place as we move into 2017. We are starting to provide comprehensive case management services for families who have needs related to mental health and alcohol and drug abuse issues. The case management services are designed to help the family advocate for their own needs and coordinate needed services and resources. The case manager becomes a strong ally to the family and seeks to assist the family members to speak for themselves rather than having the ‘human services system’ dictate to the family. We are also beginning to provide Emergency Mental Health Services to children and their families. This service attempts to help children and their parents/caretakers, develop coping strategies for mental health issues they are struggling with. One of the goals of this program is to avoid having children hospitalized at psychiatric facilities which does not seem to be effective and may be harmful to their development.
Orion is facing some of the biggest challenges ever in its history as it transitions away from residential programs and takes on more community and home based services. Orion is aided by a supportive staff who have been engaged in a year-long discussion of the need to transform the organization and take full advantage of the assets and passions of each person at Orion. It is with the strength of our staff that will carry Orion along its mission to help children and their families to succeed.