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Community services operations outlined / August 14, 2013
Donald Burge, Director of Southside Community Services, on Monday offered Mecklenburg County supervisors a glimpse into their operations, providing a summary of the agency’s outcomes for fiscal year 2013.

“Even though our contract is not up until next year, I wanted to offer a review of last year.”

Over the past year, he said, SCS provided mental health, substance abuse treatment and prevention services to 4,513 consumers in Brunswick, Halifax, and Mecklenburg Counties, a 3.8 percent increase over the previous year. Burge said most of the increase came from servicing both children and adults with substance abuse disorders.

Still, the majority of their clientele, 2,300, were adults in need of mental health services, though the fastest growing client group includes children between the ages of 0 and 3 years. Seven percent — an increase of nearly 30 percent over the previous year — of the consumers that SCS served in fiscal year 2013 were children in that age group with disabilities or in need of mental health services.

In Mecklenburg County, alone, SCS provided services to 1,477 adults and children. Fifty-seven percent of the consumers had mental health or substance abuse issues, 13% of the adults had intellectual disabilities and 30 percent of their consumers were children with mental health or substance abuse problems.

Their largest customer base, among the three counties, is still adults between the ages of 18-64. Some are in need of mental health services, others have substance abuse issues, and still others have intellectual disabilities. Burge said a significant number of their consumers need, what he called, prevention services — programs aimed at addressing issues before they become problems.

Several studies have shown that people with mental illness are significantly over represented in the criminal justice system. Based on Virginia survey data, nearly 18% of the local and regional jail population had some type of mental health disorder. Of these inmates, 61% had a substance use disorder occurring along with a mental illness. Burge explained that many of them are in jail, not just because they have committed a crime, but because they failed to receive full and timely treatment for a mental health or addiction issue.

Therefore, SCS is working with other organizations in the area to resolve that problem. With early and appropriate treatment, Burge said, these men and women might never see the inside of a prison or, those that have, might not return.

SCS which receives financial support from the County, is more than just a service provider, Burge told the Supervisors. “We are a good investment.” In FY 2013 SCS was one of the 25 largest employers in the region. They have 47 employees in Brunswick County, 67 in Halifax County and 111 in Mecklenburg. The organization paid almost $11 million in employee compensation and spent $13.8 million in total expenditures.

SCS was established in 1972 to assure that community-based services were available to children, adults and families with mental health, substance abuse, and intellectual disability needs in Brunswick, Halifax, and Mecklenburg counties.

The organization believes that treatment for persons with behavioral or intellectual/developmental disabilities or substance use problems requires a multi-disciplinary team approach, involving psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, emergency service workers, nurses, and case managers. These services are provided at several sites — behaviorial health centers, developmental training centers and community support services centers — across the three-county region. SCS also operates seven residential facilities where consumers learn to live independently. They are: Ashley Manor, Rainbow House, Brandon Home, Alberta Manor, Marc Manor, Kings Manor, Gateway Apartments, as well as an Intermediate Care Facility, Hope House.

Moving in fiscal year 2014, Burge said he and SCS will continue to work with the Southside Prisoner Reentry Council, a group which strives to reduce recidivism among prisoners by identifying and addressing abuse and mental health issues.

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