LCCSF board announces changes in funding, providers
The Lafayette County Children’s Services Fund board of directors recently announced changes in Brighter Futures program providers and funding.
In April of 2005, the voters of Lafayette County passed an one-eighth percent (1/8 percent) sales tax to be used specifically for children’s mental health. Missouri state statutes designate these funds as specifically designated to fund services to protect the well-being and safety of children, to strengthen families, and to promote healthy lifestyles among children and youth, with a focus on behavioral health.
A coalition later was put together between all six school districts in Lafayette County charged with providing mental health and behavioral health services to children. It is overseen by all six school districts’ superintendents, and regular meetings are held by district appointees to decide on client referrals. That program is known as Brighter Futures.
According to Theresa Dotson Alexander, a therapist who works with children in the program, Brighter Futures is a collaboration between all six school districts in Lafayette County charged with providing mental health and behavioral health services to children who (1) do not have insurance or are underinsured and/or (2) do not have transportation to and from counseling services, and/or (3) are concerned about stigma related to mental health services. Since its inception, Brighter Futures has primarily been funded through the Children’s Services Tax in Lafayette County.
“Up until this year, 2017, the Lexington R-V School District was the fiscal agent,” Dotson said. “At present, it is fiscally run by Lafayette C-1 in Higginsville.”
Dotson said the program is unique in that it has contracted with professional therapists to provide services to children in Lafayette County schools. The Brighter Futures team and school personnel are familiar with their contractors and which therapist works with any particular age and/or issue. Therefore, families and districts may choose the therapist who specializes in an individual child’s particular situation.
In April 2017, a school-based mental health committee was formed consisting of a representative from each school district, board member representatives, the County Commissioner Liaison, and coordinator. The board is known as the Lafayette County Children’s Services Fund (LCCSF) board. The purpose of forming a group was to allow everyone with interest in children’s mental health care to come together to discuss positive solutions and address concerns.
LCCSF Coordinator Tiffany Dehn said the LCCSF board recently learned that the Brighter Futures program was not legally owned by any one school district and was not recognized as a state or federal entity.
“The school’s fiscal agent representative, Aaron Knipmeyer, informed the board that the program would not seek to become incorporated nor pursue 501 (c)(3) status,” Dehn said. “School Districts are eligible to apply for funding as outlined in the statutes. Because it is LCCSF policy to enter into contractual agreements with agencies receiving funds, we are able to ensure accountability of those funds as long as they are used within their agency.”
Disbursing funds throughout the county to other school districts and/or providers who are not under direct contract, does not allow for the accountability and transparency that is necessary when overseeing tax payer funds, Dehn said.
“Since learning that the Brighter Futures program through the Lafayette County school districts was in-eligible to receive funding, and that students in the program may be affected, the LCCSF Board of Directors has gone above and beyond to place the well-being and safety of children as priority,” Dehn said.
Dehn noted that the board looked all around the county and went as far as Jackson and Johnson Counties looking for eligible providers to step in and deliver these priority services to our students, beginning at the first of the 17-18 school year. Two responses were received by Compass Health/Pathways and Crittenton Children’s Center (St. Luke’s Hospital).
On Monday, July 17th, the LCCSF held a special meeting, open to the public, in the Lafayette County Health Department basement for the purpose of making a funding decision.
Representatives from Compass Health/Pathways and Crittenton Children’s Center were present to share their proposals on how each of their agencies would plan to step in and deliver mental health services countywide. At that meeting, the LCCSF Board approved the funding request for Compass Health/Pathways. In doing so, Dehn said, the board fulfilled its commitment to the students of the county by ensuring direct services would be available at the beginning of the upcoming school year.
“The LCCSF Board of Directors also chose to place the well-being of the students affected by the transition as a priority by approving a one-time gift funding to the Higginsville School District for the purpose of transitioning the students in a clinical setting with the therapists they have seen previously,” Dehn stated. “It continues to be the priority of LCCSF to ensure the well-being of children.”