The Guidance Center's recent accreditation by the APA Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA) is recognized by both the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

By RIMSIE MCCONIGA
rmcconiga@leavenworthtimes.com

The Guidance Center’s recent accreditation by the APA Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)  is recognized by both the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. And it highlights what most residents of the local community already knew — The Guidance Center is one of the most valuable assets in our area.


After a rigorous review of the Center’s self-study and a site visit, CoA gave accredited status on contingency to the Center’s doctoral internship program in June, 2017.
“An accredited internship program is desired by most, if not all, internship applicants,” says Jason Malousek, clinical director and internship program director at The Guidance Center. “We believe that this will bring even more highly educated and trained early career psychologists to our agency, thus helping our community through service provision. This already bolsters a strong and long-standing training program that has offered clinical practicum and internship experiences for over a decade.


The Guidance Center is excited about what the future will bring with their accredited status. “We are hopeful we will persuade a few more psychologists to stay in this area,” says Jason.
There are multiple requirements for accreditation, but Jason says the main theme is that the program has been identified to have a structure and procedure that has been deemed consistent with nationally recognized purposes and values of accreditations. “This protects the public by only offering accreditation to programs that meet the high standards of the APA commission and that there is truth in our advertising—in other words, we are able to offer what we are ‘selling.’”


Motivation has always been a key element for success at The Guidance Center, but now the core staff that contribute to the internship program are so excited — and even more motivated to offer a quality doctoral internship learning experience. “This just put the gold seal on our program which brings a little pride as well,” says Jason.   “Our other staff are also proud that we can advertise that The Guidance Center offers an accredited teaching experience for future interns. This allows us to bring in some of the best doctoral level interns to our agency which benefits us and the community. It’s a win-win for TGC and Leavenworth.”
Having the internship program gives the Center two clinicians each year with empty caseloads. A valuable component of their training is learning how to manage a smaller caseload and honing their therapy skills, so they do see a fair amount of patients each week. The community benefits because it increases the accessibility to highly educated and trained early-career clinicians. “This accreditation is for our doctoral internship training program, which is the final step for doctoral level students in psychology (i.e., PsyD and PhD) to graduate with his/her doctorate,” says Jason. “This will also continue to bolster our practicum programs that we offer to students getting their masters degree. We have a strong pipeline with KU that continues to grow through our practicum program.”


The Guidance Center has a long and successful history. It started at the Atchison Child Guidance Clinic in 1938. Leavenworth and Jefferson counties joined with Atchison in the 1960s to create Northeast Kansas Mental Health and Guidance Center.   The name was changed in the mid-1990s to The Guidance Center, Inc. 
The Guidance Center’s mission is to promote healthy communities by providing integrated behavioral healthcare services and partnering in the delivery of general healthcare to those they serve in Leavenworth, Atchison, and Jefferson counties. And anyone who walks through the door receives the services they need regardless of their ability to pay.


The Center provides case management and attendant care for early childhood, youth, and adult clients. A Supported Employment program is available for adults requiring specialized services in order to maintain successful community living. In this program, individuals are supported in their search for employment and receive training to further develop their job skills.


A range of difficulties and problems are regularly addressed at the Center. Many young people who are seen at the Center have serious emotional disturbances that require a team of professionals to assist. Their problems include depression, anxiety, behavior problems, and addictions requiring a team which includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, case managers and attendant care workers. 
“Substance abuse is certainly a major problem for many of our clients, says Jason. “Over 500 clients per year seek services for addictions.”


With the national effort to reduce stigma and encourage people to seek help for substance abuse and mental health problems, Jason says the Center’s facilities are professional and comfortable, inviting the community to seek help in a professional and confidential setting.
The many services the Center offers include the Access Clinic, the Talent Network, the Multi-Disciplinary Child Protection Team, the Early Childhood Program, the Serving Tykes at Risk programs and the Teens Achieving, Reaching, Growing, Exploring and Transitioning (TARGET).


“Our Access Clinic is our walk-in services available in Leavenworth County Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. and in Atchison and Jefferson counties by appointment,” says Jason. “Individuals seeing on-going behavioral healthcare services through TGC complete an Intake and Assessment with a mental health professional in order to identify the specific needs of the individual. During that time, recommendations will be made regarding treatment options and a treatment plan will be developed based upon the client’s needs and input.”
The Talent Network is a feature on the Center’s website through CareerBuilder that prospective applicants can join. They are notified of open positions at the Guidance Center that match their experience and credentials.
The Multi-Disciplinary Child Protection Team is a community coalition made up of professionals from across the county that come together to identify ways to work closely together on behalf of a child and family that need multiple systems of care to address their many needs. They include law enforcement, court services, Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, Kansas Department of Children and Families, and school personnel. 


The Early Childhood Program focuses on children from ages 3-7 who are experiencing behavioral or emotional issues that interfere with their relationships within family, social or educational settings. The Guidance Center’s goal is to provide appropriate intervention at a young age so that each child can be successful at home, school and in the community.


A part of this program, Serving Tykes At Risk (STAR) focuses on children who have not yet entered kindergarten (ages 3-5) to address and respond to behavioral concerns before a child is placed in a formal school setting.


Teens Achieving, Reaching, Growing, Exploring and Transitioning (TARGET) is a psycho-social program available for high-school-age clients. This program works in conjunction with local high schools to assist teens with learning and practicing the life skills needed to transition successfully to adulthood.
The Guidance Center is determined to help as many people in the community as possible and their programs are designed for all ages, but that kind of comprehensive care doesn’t come cheap. The Center receives funding from county, state and federal grants and insurance payments from private insurers, Medicaid and Medicare. The Center also hosts an annual Fund Drive. “ In 2017 we raised over $50,000 from local donors,” says Jason. About 85 percent of TGC’s funding is from public sources. Contributions are becoming more and more important as state and Medicaid funding has been stagnate or shrinking over the past 10 years.” 
For staff at The Guidance Center working to help community members is a very satisfying job. The Center envisions a healthy community of people who can access and benefit from state-of-the-art integrated health care which results in an enhanced quality of life for all.  “The Guidance Center prides itself on providing state-of-the-art evidence-based care in all that we do,” says Jason. “Working to help people improve their lives and stay in their own communities to receive care is very satisfying. 
“We see many of our people get better and they tell us so.  We are a service organization and we seek to employ people who see their mission in life to serve others. Behavioral and emotional health is just as important as physical health.
“The two are directly interconnected and we contribute to the overall health and safety of our communities.”