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Banking on KC - Jennifer Craig of ReDiscover

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Kelly Scanlon: Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kellie Scanlon. Thank you for joining us. With us on this episode is Jennifer Craig, the president and CEO at Rediscover, a nonprofit community health center that provides programs and services for adults and children whose lives have been affected by mental illness or substance abuse disorders.

Welcome, Jennifer.

Jennifer Craig: Thank you for having me, Kelly.

Kelly Scanlon: So glad to have you here to talk about the really important mission that Rediscover serves. You've got more than a 50-year history. During that time, you've helped hundreds of thousands of people, as we said, with mental, but also with physical wellness. So talk to us about how Rediscover has a Adopted its programs and services to meet the changing needs of the community over that period, especially considering the evolving landscape of mental health and substance use.

Jennifer Craig: Well, certainly a lot has changed over 50 plus years. I think in recent years, Rediscover had an opportunity to be a Part of the Excellence in Mental Health Act that was sponsored by Senator Blunt to look at a different way of providing mental health treatment that was much more inclusive and holistic and when people have the courage to come in and ask for help, they can get an array of services in one location.

And so, we've really been focused on that and what it means to be a certified community behavioral health clinic. It means that all of your behavioral health, mental health. Substance use, uh, needs can be met in one place. And that's been our priority.

Kelly Scanlon: The organization changed its name to ReDiscover, I think, about 20 years ago.

What's the significance of that name change?

Jennifer Craig: To me, ReDiscover as a name is really about hope. And I think it speaks differently to each individual and meets them where they're at. For example, for somebody struggling with addiction, they can rediscover their recovery, they can rediscover their sobriety.

For somebody who's been struggling with loneliness or depression, it's rediscovering their passion and their hope for the future. And so, it really does say change is possible and we're here to help.

Kelly Scanlon: You have three major programs, uh, buckets, if you will, you have crisis services, mental health services, and substance use services.

So tell us a little bit about each one of those and how they support not just individuals but also their families.

Jennifer Craig: We do have three buckets historically, you know, funding from state and federal. One of the things I always want to point out, though, is we often, as people, are very unique and individual, so we don't always fit neatly in one bucket, and so we really do try to meet people where they're at.

Mental health is really focused on, um, mental health. Health Services, and that could be outpatient, that could be more intensive, like a partial hospital program if somebody's needing some more intensive support. Substance use is a lot about what that sounds like. It's how do we support the wellness and recovery journey of those struggling with using substances.

And I think crisis services has really been the most evolving in our field. How do we meet the needs of individuals as they need us. And also, instead of people having to come to us, how do we go out in the community and meet people where they're at when there is a crisis? For example, one of the things that we know when we look at the data is the largest provider of mental health services in our country is law enforcement.

And so what's happening now is we're doing co responder programs where somebody may call 911 and ask for help, or their family member may, and if the dispatch identifies that it really is a mental health issue, we'll have a mental health provider go along with the officer. And meet the individual where they're at and so instead of having an interaction with law enforcement that could result in an arrest or incarceration, it's how do we get you connected into the services you need and get you the help you need.

Kelly Scanlon: First two programs or buckets that we talked in generalities about are really more for the, the longer term. The last one, the crisis is, it's acute. It's happening now. There's an episode or there's, you know, there's something that, that needs to be dealt with or, or worked through right now.

Jennifer Craig: Yes. Crisis can mean different things for different individuals.

So really the focus of our crisis services is meeting people where they are at, being as accessible as possible, and then hearing their story and helping them connect with whatever resources they need ongoing.

Kelly Scanlon: What services do you extend to families beyond the individual that you serve? You may be working with.

Jennifer Craig: So families are very important, not only for youth and young adults, but really for all individuals that can be important part of support network. And so that can really vary depending on the preference of the client we serve. But certainly, when we're working with youth, involving their families is really critical.

In fact, we have professionals that are certified family support providers and their parents who've had children who have struggled with mental health issues that have gone and gotten a certification to help other parents navigate that process. And that's been a wonderful addition in helping families achieve progress.

Kelly Scanlon: Jennifer, this is really appropriate time of year for your message because there's often a surge in mental health related incidents during the winter, during the holidays. There's just so much going on, and there's so much evidence that shows that this is true. It's just not anecdotal. So why is that?

Jennifer Craig: I think it's a combination. There's a lot of pressure related to the holiday season. There can be financial stress. Oftentimes, we have this vision of having happy families, and then maybe People have grown up in families that were not as healthy, or maybe it's a reminder of loneliness or loss and there's a lot of grief, it can trigger a lot of grief.

And then also in winter, we have shorter days and with daylight and then after the holidays, you have the bills come because sometimes we spend more on gifts than we really could afford. And so it's just a myriad of stressors. And we know that that brief daylight and just the more isolation with the colder weather, we're outdoors less.

It's a combination of all of those things. And so how do we find ways to really connect with people and be aware that this is an increased time of risk?

Kelly Scanlon: Do you see that among the people that you serve as well, that this spikes at this time of year?

Jennifer Craig: We do. In fact, just this morning we were talking about how to make sure that our crisis services were available throughout the season with upcoming, not only holiday season, but even beyond the holiday season in severe weather.

How do we make sure that we're meeting that need? We want our employees to have, you know, time off with family and friends during this season, but we also want to make sure we're there for our clients. And so we really are very thoughtful about how to do that.

Kelly Scanlon: What are some of the signs? So, what are some of the signs that we can watch for in our friends, family, co workers?

Some people are really good at masking what they're dealing with. So what are some of the signs that we can look for?

Jennifer Craig: You know, it can vary for individuals, but I think if there's a change in behavior. So if someone maybe starts isolating more or, in some cases may seem more irritable or just canceling a lot, having a hard time.

Getting out of the house, I mean, all of those could be warning signs or even making statements about, you know, I'm not sure I want to be here anymore. I think that there's this perception that if we bring up suicide or depression, it could make it worse or give somebody the idea and the research shows that's just not true.

When you ask the question and say, are you doing okay? Are you having any thoughts of hurting yourself or are you feeling depressed? That people are just relieved that somebody cared enough to ask the question. And so that can be a first step in knowing somebody cares enough to ask that question.

Kelly Scanlon: So, you notice these signs. What do you do? It is okay to ask the question. And then beyond that, are, are there any, any additional tips that you can provide us with how to respond based on what you're noticing?

Jennifer Craig: I think the first and foremost in that moment, just letting the person know you care and that they're important to you.

I think in terms of helping people access professional help, there's a great newer resource in this country. It's 988. It's a three-digit number that allows us to act. Access the Crisis and Suicide Prevention Hotline. It's nationwide. Locally we have local operators that are there 24 7 and an individual can call for help for themselves or anyone can call to ask questions about help for family and friends.

Kelly Scanlon: Okay. So, 9 8 8, new resource. How has your organization specifically impacted the lives of the adults and the children that are dealing with mental illness or substance use disorders in our community?

Jennifer Craig: I had the opportunity to meet with a community member recently, and there's so many stories I could share, and I know we don't have time, but one, and I have to say when my team first said, we want to really make sure people know we're here, and so they created these door knockers.

They hung on doors that just said the information about the 988 hotline, and we're here if you need help, and they left it on doors, and a community member said. It was on our doorknob, and my adolescent daughter said, you know, Mom, I've been thinking about killing myself. I think we need to call. And she said, that doorknocker saved my daughter's life.

Just a simple act like that. And it's not unusual for me to discover in a community meeting, people will share stories, family member was struggling with addiction, and they were able to get help from Rediscover and now they're back on the road to recovery and it's changed our family's life and they're now part of our family again.

Kelly Scanlon: You know we often talk about depression, or we hear about or read about depression or we see the door knockers or we see if someone you know is experiencing, here's the number to call. It manifests itself in so many different ways.

Jennifer Craig: It really does, and at any given point, on any given day, we can experience some depression, whether it meets the criteria for a diagnosable condition or not.

You know, things like grief and loss, things like a sudden change or stressor, and it can even be a good thing, like having a new baby. It can be a wonderful thing, but it's also very stressful. And so you can see increases in depression and anxiety. And I think sometimes we think of, oh, there's this very serious health condition, which it can be.

I don't want to minimize that. But just like with any health condition, we can have different levels of severity. And what we don't want to do is just say, you know what? I can handle this myself. I don't need to talk anybody or get help because then it could get worse. And so how do we take care of our mental health?

And think about it as needing the same kind of attention that like we go to get our annual physicals, or we go to get our teeth cleaned. Like how can we have a world where taking care of one's mental health is just normal? How do we get there? You know, I think having the conversation is a first place to start.

I think we've done a lot to reduce the stigma. And I think the more we talk about it and the more we learn, I mean really if you look at it, psychology is a relatively young field and we're still learning a lot. I've been in the field for a little more than 30 years and in some ways it's shocking that the things I was taught in school are not best practice now.

And I think that's the good news is we've challenged ourselves to continue to be innovative and be thoughtful and let's learn what works and what can help people.

Kelly Scanlon: What are some of the challenges that you face personally after 30 years in serving in this area and also just Rediscover itself? You know, what are some of the challenges that you faced in addressing mental health and substance use issues and how has Rediscover worked to overcome those challenges?

Jennifer Craig: You know, I think one of the greatest challenges we're facing is making sure we have the workforce to meet the need. I don't know that that's something we talk about often, but I think I have to really be talking about it. For people who are interested in this field, there's been a lot of changes. I think we're paying more competitively than historically we did.

I was at a seminar recently, and to meet the current need for counseling, we need about 1.6 million counselors, and right now there's only about 400,000 currently certified.

Kelly Scanlon: Oh, so you're more than half a million off.

Jennifer Craig: Exactly. This is just in the United States. And so we're looking at very innovative ways.

How do we meet the needs? So how do we use group therapy? How do we supplement with maybe some technology to provide people with touch points in between sessions? How do we look at creative ways to meet people's needs? But one of the things that's being impacted is with the baby boom generation retiring.

And we saw this happen during COVID, people choosing to retire early, and it's left a real gap in the field. And so, one of the things Rediscover has done is really invest in workforce. And tuition reimbursement we're part of a program that allows for student loan cancellation in exchange for working for us as a safety net nonprofit provider.

And we've really invested in helping people who are interested in making this a career, have career track. and getting clinical supervision to pursue professional licensure and really making that workforce development a priority for us. In spite of some of the challenges we have with increased demand for services and the decrease in workforce in the mental health field, we're really proud of the fact that we found innovative and creative ways to So even though, you know, the year isn't quite up, we've already set a new record for serving more people.

In fact, by the end of September of 2023, we had already served more people than we did in 2022. And I'm really proud of the team of people because that just shows their innovation and passion for the work that we do. In light of not having all of the human resources that you need to provide your services.

Kelly Scanlon: It makes it even more important to collaborate. So in what ways does Rediscover collaborate with other organizations or partners to enhance the impact of your programs and services?

Jennifer Craig: We collaborate with so many other nonprofits and hospitals and really our philosophy is there's such a great need. We don't need to be in competition with each other. It's how do we collaborate to meet the greatest need of our community?

For example, I'm talking with a smaller nonprofit that primarily serves the Spanish speaking population. They shared with me that they were having trouble accessing psychiatry. They were able to provide counseling. And so we were able to partner with them through our behavioral health urgent care so they could get access.

And we have a bilingual provider on weekends, so they know that. And now we're able to provide that access. And we're not trying to compete with them. We're trying to supplement and meet a need that they weren't able to meet, for example. How does ReDiscover engage with the local community.

Kelly Scanlon: You mentioned the door knockers as an example, but other ways that you engage with the community to raise awareness and reduce that stigma that you referenced earlier surrounding mental health and substance use issues.

Jennifer Craig: So in addition to interacting a lot with other nonprofits, which we do to, to meet Client needs, community needs. We're also just involved in the community. So we're members of local Chamber of Commerce. And I oftentimes find a lot of business owners approaching me saying, I'm really worried about an employee, and it's a way for us to provide resources, help people get connected.

There's something called Mental Health First Aid, which is very much like CPR, and the idea is to teaching people who are not professional mental health workers enough to know how to help people access help. And so we've had people from the Parks and Rec Department  because oftentimes people will come in to use Parks and Rec services who are struggling with mental health or addiction and they wanted to get more information about how they could help.

And we provided that mental health first aid training to them. Those are just some examples of how we do that right.

Kelly Scanlon: And what are your key goals for Rediscover and really for the treatment of mental health in the coming years? And how are you going to achieve those?

Jennifer Craig: We have very lofty goals. I will say, you know, a priority for this next year is really how do we make sure that we have robust services for children and youth?

There's been a nationwide emergency declared for youth mental health. The Surgeon General released a report on that, and so we've been very focused on partnering with local school districts and embedding our Rediscover licensed clinicians into those school settings. And so really talking about school social workers are doing wonderful work, you know, there's obviously a need for that, but how do we come and partner alongside them to meet the need?

So that's that's one thing that we're really looking at. And I will tell you, we talked about workforce earlier. One of the greatest challenges is I have school districts say, you know, get me 20 counselors tomorrow. And then it's finding them. And that has been one of our fastest growing areas. And yet the need is still so great.

Kelly Scanlon: If any of our listeners wanted to learn more about your programs, your services, or perhaps even get involved with Rediscover, what's the best way to do that?

Jennifer Craig: I would say start by connecting with our website. On our website, there's opportunities to get involved, and we do have volunteer opportunities, can provide presentations to, you know, companies or individuals who are looking for more information.

There are opportunities to also give and donate to our services. And there's many different ways to get involved and learn more.

Kelly Scanlon: And your website is

Jennifer Craig: Yes, Rediscover. The M H is for mental health.

Kelly Scanlon: Jennifer, thank you so much for being with us on this episode of Banking on KC and all the work that you and your team  do in the community.

Jennifer Craig: Thank you so much. Thank you for having us.

Joe Close: This is Joe Close, president of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Jennifer Craig for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC through the dedicated efforts of the team at ReDiscover. The organization has become a place of transformation for individuals facing mental health and substance use challenges.

By fostering resilience and independence, Rediscover's programs restore hope for countless individuals and also strengthen the bonds within families. The organization's ripple effect extends far beyond individual stories of recovery. Empowering individuals to cope and equipping them to rebuild their lives creates positive change, change that flourishes within families and radiates through communities.

Rediscover's impact is a testament to the profound change that can occur when compassion meets expertise. Each of their success stories demonstrates that investing in mental health reaps dividends that resonate far and wide. Thanks for tuning in this week. We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank, member FDIC.