PART 5 OF 7 ARTICLES IN THE SERIES.
In the 2000s, a huge shift propelled the growth of Family & Children’s Services from a $6 million budget in 1999 to $26 million by 2008. The organization transformed from family service agency to mental health provider to combat growing depression, substance abuse and other mental illness.
Within five years, F&CS became the largest community mental health center in the state. To F&CS Gail Lapidus, the common thread is still poverty: “The people we serve are often overburdened and under-resourced. For many, their illness has caused challenges for employment, housing, health and family relationships. FCS meets all of these needs, along with mental health and addiction treatment.”
In 2009, F&CS launched Women in Recovery, an intensive outpatient alternative for eligible women facing long prison sentences for drug-related offenses. To date the program has graduated more than 500 women, helping them overcome addiction, recover from trauma, address mental illness and acquire tools to build successful and productive lives.
In 2014, the ongoing statewide shortage of beds for inpatient mental health care often forced Tulsa-area patients to be transported out of their communities for treatment. As a result, F&CS created the Crisis Care Center, 1055 S. Houston Ave., to stabilize individuals through counseling, medication and/or ambulatory detox.
The program began with seven chairs for quick turnarounds and 16 beds for in-patient care; today the unit has grown to 20 chairs and 20 beds, which are at full capacity, according to Krista Lewis, F&CS chief program officer for adult mental health medical and crisis services.
In 2020, a sally port — a dedicated law enforcement entrance — was added to the Center to streamline the assessment process for citizens and police. Since Jan. 21, 2021, 38% of those served in the Crisis Care Center have come via law enforcement, while the others come through referrals or simply walk in.
More individuals are suffering from anxiety, depression and substance abuse because of the ongoing pandemic. Adults and children suffering a mental health crisis and suicidal ideation are increasing and calling F&CS’ , a telephone and mobile crisis program, for help. COPES helps with de-escalation and, when possible, a warm hand-off to mental health outpatient services or, when required, to facility-based care.
“People are turning to substances in greater numbers because of the pandemic,” Lewis adds. “While they think this will make them feel better, what we are seeing is an increase in substance-induced dependency along with depression and anxiety.”
Lapidus says F&CS’ community mental health work will continue to grow through initiatives like a new maternal mental health program for mothers experiencing postpartum depression. “To achieve better outcomes for the seriously mentally ill with multiple chronic conditions and needs, FCS will add whole person care incorporating medical care coordination, intensive case management and additional criminal justice diversion offerings,” she says.
Today F&CS’ mission statement reads: “Family and Children’s Services heals hurting and abused children, strengthens families, and provides hope and a path to recovery for those battling mental illness and addiction.”
“(F&CS) sees the problems,” says Alison Anthony, CEO of Tulsa Area United Way, which continues to help fund F&CS. “They have an idea grounded in data, knowing what would make a difference, and they fuel that with their energy. They are able to develop and execute a plan better than just about anybody.”
One hundred years after its founding, the 809-employee organization serves an estimated 120,000 people a year, and the ripple effect of those touchpoints has changed not only a community, but also generations of Tulsans, for the better.
Before retiring from F&CS, Claudia Arthrell often ran into clients from 30 years ago. “There would be parents who would come up to me and say, ‘I had counseling with you when you were in east Tulsa, and you changed my life. And you’re the reason my family and I know you all can help us now.’”