Grant Comes Home to Marion County

OCALA, FLA. –Kids Central, in partnership with LifeStream and The Centers, has been awarded a $516,295 grant by the State of Florida Department of Children and Families. The funds will be used for the Integration of Substance Abuse, Mental Health and Child Welfare Services Pilot project, delivering intensive services in-home to families suffering with debilitating substance abuse and mental health issues. Over 75% of all child abuse cases in Marion and Lake Counties involve mental health and/or substance misuse. Unfortunately, severe mental health issues are commonly accompanied by drug or alcohol abuse.

As the nonprofit, community-based care agency charged with serving the abused and neglected children in Circuit 5 – Marion, Citrus, Hernando, Lake and Sumter Counties, Kids Central is committed to meeting the individual needs of the communities it serves. From 2011 to 2013, the circuit experienced a 46.2% increase in diversion cases due to substance abuse. The increased abuse of substances severely damages families. With this grant, Kids Central, LifeStream, and The Centers will be able to bring substance abuse treatment and mental health services directly to families in need in Marion and Lake Counties. LifeStream CEO, Jon Cherry shared, “LifeStream is looking forward to partnering with Kids Central and The Centers in order to bring much needed services directly to the children and families in our community. “

Today, families introduced to the child welfare system receive varying levels of intervention based on their needs and the safety of the children. The new pilot program could enhance the ability of families to remain intact and receive intensive interventions in their homes. Families, such as those being served by the grant, weren’t commonly able to remain together safely. Bringing the services into a close and comfortable setting improves family engagement and reduces barriers to treatment.

A variety of barriers and challenges interfere with a parent’s ability to complete the required assessments requested when substance abuse, mental health problems (SAMH), or co-occurring disorders are present.  John Cooper, CEO of Kids Central explains, “The families we serve commonly encounter barriers to treatment, including limited financial resources, limited insurance coverage for behavior health services, waiting lists for appointments, as well as fear, resistance and denial of problems. This program should allow us to remove these barriers reducing the need to remove children and split families.”

This research proven, innovative program will improve access and availability to community-based mental health and substance abuse services including:

  • Focusing on client recovery, resiliency and social rehabilitation services
  • Reducing and eliminating the necessity for a waiting list
  • Ensuring the availability of program funding to improve and enhance the services being provided
  • Providing immediate assistance to a family in crisis without a delay in services.

In March 2011, Kirstin, a mother, came to the attention of the formal dependency system due to substance abuse. Just as many other parents with the same issues, she was given a case plan which included several service interventions to complete. She, like many others, didn’t have transportation or employment and continued to struggle with drug addiction. When asked what she thought of the new pilot program, Kirstin, now one year sober, answered, “This new program would have helped me. I would have had more hope. If someone could have come to me to provide treatment, I would have been more accountable, and maybe I would not have went as far down the scale as I did. […] The fact that I did not complete my case plan within the time required, resulted in my mother adopting my son. The men and women that are able to receive the help being offered with this new program have an advantage that I did not have and more families can be reunited. This is great hope, and I am very excited to see the results.”

In addition to this pilot program, The Centers recently received a SAMHSA grant for Expanding Care Coordination Through the Use of Technology-Assisted Care. When asked how this partnership grant and The Centers’ recently awarded technology grant will work together, Charles Powell, CEO explained, “They fit like a glove. Our big vision is to have our treatment services to be accessible where people live or get services. The KCI grant is a home based approach and will naturally be the place to use our new technology first. We did not plan it that way, but sometimes things come together for a reason. This is one of those very fortunate timing issues.”

Kids Central, Inc. is the nonprofit lead agency accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA) selected by the State of Florida to coordinate child protection services in Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit- Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter Counties. Kids Central focuses on the prevention and diversion of families from the child welfare system, the care of children in foster care, and strengthening families in the communities.

The Centers, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit behavioral healthcare organization, has been serving Citrus and Marion Counties for 41 years. With eight locations and nearly six hundred employees, The Centers provides comprehensive mental health, substance abuse, and child welfare services for children and adults. Committed to offering quality and affordable services for all in need, The Centers is rebuilding hope and significantly impacting the lives of thousands in the community. Licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Family Services, and in partnership with Kids Central, Inc., The Centers is also accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

LifeStream Behavioral Center (LifeStream) is a nonprofit behavioral health and social services organization that provides quality driven inpatient and outpatient treatment, residential, education, care management, rehabilitation and homeless services to children, adolescents, adults and seniors.  For over 42 years, LifeStream has been committed to our mission of: “Supporting Recovery, Promoting Health and Creating Hope”.  Located in Central Florida, we serve primarily Lake & Sumter Counties with homeless services located in Orange County.  LifeStream is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and reviewed annually by state and federal regulatory agencies.   For more information, visit