By RICK HAYES
MT. VERNON — —
A new name, new management and new vision are the ingredients that officials of Jefferson County Comprehensive Services — now known as Comprehensive Connections — are counting on to make a new connection with the community.
"We've not changed our corporate identity, but we've changed and registered with the Secretary of State that we're going call ourselves Comprehensive Connections connecting to the community," explained Executive Director Dan Boehmer. "The whole purpose of that is to get our image our there, to let people know we're not just a Medicaid clinic, but we're here for everybody in the community. We have licensed clinicians and accredited by a national organization. We have as good as counseling and resource treatment programs as you're going to find anywhere."
Boehmer said because of individuals who have retired or moved elsewhere, the entire management team, save for Boehmer, is new.
"With that comes some new modernization, some new enthusiasm, and the new vision has the idea of connecting people with the internal and external resources needed to be the best they can be," he said.
In addition to mental health services, the agency provides substance abuse treatment, and rehabilitation programs and is an integral part of the meals program for seniors in a cooperative effort with the Sunshine Center.
"The last four years we've received massive cuts in our state grant fund budgets. The state has switched from grants where you have funds available to serve the people that have no financial means to a fee for service system where you bill the state as if people have insurance," explained Boehmer. "The only problem is in the mental health arena the benefits that are covered only includes crisis intervention and a couple of hours of case management where you can help somebody not on Public Aid. So when it comes to providing treatment for indigent individuals there is no money. That really affected a lot of the folks that came to us for mental health services because they don't quality for Public Aid, and they don't have insurance. If it wasn't for the local support of donations we would be in deep trouble."
"We're not a county agency," said Jim Dame, chairman of the board. "We take insurance. We will work with anybody. That's one of the reasons for our name change. We're trying to change the whole concept that people view as to what we do. We do detox, we do mental health and we do substance abuse. We don't clean up everybody up, but once in a while we have a story that the miracle that has happened is just phenomenal," noting the organization has been in business for 41 years as a not-for-profit organization.
Gayle Shelton, a board member for about six months, said the work program is impressive.
"Everybody needs to be part of a community, and the feeling of family there is tremendous. Everyone there feels they have a purpose in life and are contributing something. So the work they are able to do is wonderful. You get a real sense of connection there, that they are connected to a larger group and they feel good about what they're doing," she said.
Comp Services provides services to about 70 individuals per day with developmental disabilities.
"They have cognitive disabilities, where they may be seriously disabled and need a day activity schedule or maybe actually be able to work and we provide that work and they are payed based on their productivity. The state used to give a grant for doing that as well as some fee for service and four or five years ago when the budget went belly-up they eliminated that funding," Boehmer said. "We don't have any fewer clients than we've had before, but we've got about 40 staff less than what we had before."
Melissa Learned is the vocational director and oversees a recycling program the agency provides to local businesses. Paper and cardboard products are picked up by the agency, sorted and baled, and then taken to Kendrick Paper Stock. The proceeds are used to pay the clients.The agency will soon be teaming up with Kroger to offer recycling to the community.
State Rep. Mike Bost was scheduled to visit the facility on Thursday, but had another commitment and rescheduled to next Thursday.
"We invited him because he wasn't totally aware of what we do out here," said Dame. "He's familiar with what is the H-Group in Williamson County, but he wasn't aware that we do mental health, senior meals, rehabilitation and alcohol and detox programs. Of course, we're looking for any help we can get anywhere financially, so hopefully, he'll have some ideas as far as grants or to help with the special needs we have."