The Evidence-Based Human Services Organization

Interview with Kim Scorza, CEO, Seasons Center for Behavioral Health

1. Can you summarize the work of your agency, in terms of the target population served, geographic area, and types of services provided

Seasons Center is a comprehensive behavioral health center offering a broad range of services to the people and communities in Northwest Iowa since 1959. The primary service area for Seasons is nine counties in rural northwest Iowa:  Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Lyon, O’Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, and Sioux. In July 2016, Seasons was awarded a new contract to provide services for victims of crime, expanding the service area to include an additional ten counties: Calhoun, Carroll, Cherokee, Crawford, Ida, Monona, Plymouth, Pocahontas, Sac, and Woodbury. In August 2016, Seasons opened an office in Sioux City (Woodbury County).  At the beginning of 2016-2017, Seasons began providing school-based services at the Cherokee School District.

Comprehensive programs and services provided by Seasons include: psychiatric services (both inpatient and outpatient), outpatient therapy and substance use disorder services, autism services, case management, community based services, Juvenile Court Specialty Care Coordination (JCSCC), Integrated Health Home services (IHH), Behavioral Health Intervention Services (BHIS), psychological testing, specialized services for victims of crime, domestic abuse intervention, consultation and education, parent education, peer and family peer support, crisis and emergency services, Recovery Peer Support, Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation (IPR), and Functional Family Therapy (FFT). In 2016, Seasons served 5,298 individuals for behavioral health conditions, representing 2,258 children (ages 0-21).

2. How long have you worked in your current position, and can you summarize your employment background?

I have been working in the human services field in northwest Iowa for the past 25 years and at Seasons since 2010, as the President/CEO. I have a Master of Social Work from the University of Iowa and one year completed toward a Master of Science from Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts in Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling. Prior to coming to Seasons I worked as a Branch Director at Bethany Christian Services, a non-profit adoption and family services agency. It was during that time that I experienced the necessity for effectively addressing the needs of abused and trauma-exposed children to achieve permanency in their adoptive homes. Before working at Bethany, I was a Victim’s Witness Coordinator with the Sioux County Attorney’s Office, where I helped walk victims of crime through the criminal justice system and aided in securing resources for them to overcome the crime committed against them.

3. How does your agency incorporate evidenced-based approaches (i.e., policies, programs, and practices), and what have been your most successful efforts with becoming evidence-based?

Our journey with incorporating evidenced-based programs and practices began with implementing several evidenced-based programs, such as Parent Child Interactive Therapy (PCIT) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT). As we began experiencing success with these programs we began to train staff in additional evidence-based treatment programs (EBPs) We then began to look at the broader practice of providing trauma-informed care, which included not only offering specific EBPs but looking at our physical facilities, such as office set-up and wait area décor. At the same time, we began to look at our policies for screening and assessing client, hiring and on-boarding of staff, and agency strategic planning. Our most successful effort in becoming evidence-based has been the opening of Autumn’s Center, a state of the art and first of its kind regional children’s center in rural northwest Iowa. All elements in the design of Autumn’s Center have been influenced by our work with using evidence-based approaches, including programming, policies, floor plan, and furnishing.

4. What have been the main challenges your agency has experienced with becoming evidence-based, and how have you overcome these challenges?

Three challenges that merit mentioning are time, money, and size. Dedicating staff time to plan, implement, and monitor all the activities that go along with becoming evidence-based is an obvious challenge for any agency. Having the financial means to dedicate to the processes, I believe also goes without saying. Finally, maintaining offices in ten counties and a staff that has grown from about 50 employees to nearly 150 in five years, definitely added additional challenges. During this time, the State of Iowa began reorganizing the adult mental health systems and is now in the process of redesigning the children’s mental health system. Nonetheless, we have overcome these challenges by using our strategic plan to keep focused on our mission and vision and by using our EBP Action Plan to keep us focused on realistic and achievable activities. Most importantly, as the agency’s President/CEO, I am committed to being evidence-based organization and my leadership team is equally dedicated. As a team, we believe that each challenge brings with it multiple opportunities!

5. How has becoming a Certified Evidence-Based Organization (CEBO) benefited your agency?

Becoming a CEBO has benefited Seasons in multiple ways. It has helped us with successful grant writing, building a donor base for fund development, and in recruiting and hiring qualified staff. Our entire service area is a designated mental health provider shortage area. Most importantly though, we have seen successful outcomes for our clients and their families. It is exciting to hear our staff now talk about success stories with their clients, interest in new training opportunities, and future programs and services related to emerging research and best practices.

6. How do you see the work of your agency changing or evolving in the future?

I believe we will continue to grow in terms of the number of clients served, continue to train staff in new evidence-based programs and services, as well as, expand services into additional locations. I am confident with the time, energy, and resources we have dedicated to being a CEBO, we are well-positioned to handle changes related to Medicaid expansion, the ACA, and other unknowns related to behavioral health care. We know that the use of technology and social media will continue to influence how we do business and provide services. As an agency, we want to continue to build our capacity in using data and outcomes to guide and inform decision-making. We intend to continue to define processes to illustrate the cost-benefits of prevention and early intervention services.

7. What advice can you provide to other similar agencies that wish to become more evidence-based?

You need to make a commitment to moving forward with becoming evidence-based, put an action plan in writing, and just do it! You cannot let money, time, or the fear of failing be an obstacle. You will learn from mistakes. Also plan to celebrate successes and accomplishments. Assess your resources and commitment from others and create a realistic plan. Remember you will never have a perfect plan, put something in place and just get started!

8. Anything else you would like to add for the benefit of our readers?

We welcome the opportunity to network with other agencies interested in becoming a CEBO! It really is an exciting journey and we cannot imagine providing services any other way! We continue to learn and challenge ourselves to be better. Please consider joining us in this effort!

 

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