“Our mission is to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting and enhancing the lives of children and families through quality social services”
That is Bethany Christian Services Mission statement. When I sat down with Julie McGowan, Counseling Supervisor at BCS, one thing I asked her was what she’d like included in my blog post. Here response: the mission statement. Her pride for the mission statement and organization shined as she enthusiastically explained “Doing this work as a Christian agency has really been a blessing. It doesn’t mean clients need to be Christians to come here, but they like the Christian piece - someone who is loving and caring and not judgmental. It is a cool thing for Bethany to provide a Christian atmosphere but not limit to the Christian population.”
Julie stated at Bethany Christian Services as an intern in 2008. After graduating with her MSW from Grand Valley University, she worked at BCS for a year and half as a part-time therapist before becoming a supervisor in 2010. She loves the work that BCS does as well as the organization’s culture. When I asked her why she enjoys working at BCS so much she responded, “Being able to work with kids and families is a passion of mine. For me personally, especially doing that with a trauma focus is important. Also the atmosphere here is one big family. We are coworkers but we get to know each other on a personal level. And that's important with doing work that's this emotional and this hard it is important to have that support.”
Bethany Christian Services has been in Holland for over 30 years and has welcomed Allegan clients ever since opening its doors. BCS offers counseling and case management focused on family and children with a special focus on trauma throughout all of its service offerings. The El Centro program, an Allegan County United Way funded program, has the same offerings as the agency’s general programs, other than its focus on the Hispanic population.
El Centro provides counseling and case management services focused on the Hispanic population who are under or uninsured. The El Centro program is staffed with bilingual workers, where assistance can be provided in Spanish at all levels of the counseling process; from scheduling an appointment with the receptionist to therapy sessions. The program’s focus on the underinsured is just as critical as the uninsured as most Medicaid plans only cover 20 sessions a year. The program can also help those who might have great insurance but with high deductible.
El Centro’s history dates back to 1988. In 1999, El Centro merged with Bethan Christian Services office in Holland and became a vital part of the Bethany Holland Counseling Program. In 2015 El Centro provided counseling and case management services to 10 families (21 individuals) from Allegan county with an average of 6.5 sessions (50 minutes per session) per family.
Funding from Allegan County United Way is essential as not all funding streams are as flexible and allow the agency to help the uninsured and underinsured. Additionally, the funds allow the organization to work with the whole family. Although stats show just the primary client, the organization may reach its services out to all family members. ACUW funding helps this as they aren't limited by insurance billing and allows the organization more flexibility depending on what they see fit. With the funding, therapists are able to increase session time or frequency regardless of what insurance provider regulates.
By offering case management in conjunction with counseling, the agency is able to address other needs the family is bringing in. “It is really about connecting with others who can meet their food, employment, basic needs.” Explained Julie in regards to BCS holistic approach.
The impact of the El Centro program can be seen in a testimonial Julie shared with me about a boy and his family who came to BCS through the program:
Bobby was a 3 year old boy when he first started counseling with Bethany Christian Services. His mother recently went to jail and his father was now trying to be a single dad of 3 kids all under the age of 6. Soon, Bobby started having behavior and temper tantrums. As a result, Dad brought him to counseling. During his first session, Bobby did not speak at all to his counselor. After months, Bobby began to say a few words to the counselor. Eventually, Bobby began to talk more and more to the counselor, telling her all about his family, his feelings and what he wanted to see different in his life. Bobby was able to work through feelings related to Mom going to jail and developed a great variety of coping skills that were effective for him. He even taught his younger sister the coping skills he learned.
Bobby’s progress in therapy was slow initially; it took him a long time to feel comfortable enough to open up. His insurance would only cover 20 sessions, and after his 20 sessions, he was just barely beginning to talk. Thanks to United Way, Bobby was able to continue with services despite not having insurance coverage.
It was not just Bobby that benefitted from these services. His whole family was able to benefit from being connected to other resources in our community that were able to help them get back on their feet.
Bethany Christian Services and ACUW relationship extends past funding. BCS looks to ACUW as a connection to having other resources at their fingertips. “There are so many other needs that we can’t meet, but there are other united way referral sources to go to. Using United Way as a referral source helps us wrap around a family completely other than just the counseling.” Explained Julie.
One of the most helpful direct resources ACUW offers is the 2-1-1 crisis line. Julie mentioned how beneficial the phone number is when working with client; “We use 2-1-1 as a resource. It is really helpful when providing case management. We may not always have the answers of where to send clients but can sit down with the client and call. It helps us be able to help the client better.” Another value to the United Way funding for the El Centro program is that the agency is able to make these calls and help with case management in United Way funded sessions. Using 2-1-1 during sessions isn’t always possible with other funding methods based on different guidelines. Through the use of 2-1-1 and United Way funding, BCS is able to meet client needs holistically.
In addition, BCS participates in the United Way supported program, Familywize. Familywize is a discount prescription program open to anyone that allows users to save at any pharmacy in the county. The card can offer substantial savings to the under and uninsured. For more information about Familywize click here.
Bethany Christian Services recently opened an office in Allegan. Soon, therapists will be on site in Allegan offering general and El Centro programming. For more information about Bethany Christian Services click here.
Pictured: Bethany Christian Services Holland Team