Evergreen Foundation Grant Provides Needed Supports in WNC

Ashley Thomas (not her real name for privacy reasons) grew up in foster care, is a survivor of domestic violence, has 3 children all in Department of Social Services custody, doesn’t have a job and in the past has responded to each situation with self-destructive behaviors. She feels that this time things are going to be different for her, she wants to break the cycle and get her life turned around.

Ashley is doing this with the help of her team at Appalachian Community Services (ACS). She is in a program that is known as The Evergreen Alternative Service (EAS). Through an Evergreen Foundation grant ACS can provide her with a case manager who is able to help her navigate the DSS requirements, find secure housing, link her with support groups, explore jobs in the community, provider her needed treatment services and provide support when stressful situations arise. With this support Thomas is making great strides in getting her life in order. Her primary objective right now is to get a job so that she can get her children back.

 “They provide true support. I’m not judged,” states Thomas. “They are always there when I need them.”

Ashley had gone to other providers in the past but these community supports were not available. These are the services and supports she needs to make changes in her life. It is clear that her case manager from ACS, Amanda Belue, is proud of the progress she has made in the past six months.

 “In the past when Ashley has encountered a stressful situation she started cutting herself. Now she has support and has learned other ways of coping with stress.” praised Belue.

Two years ago when the state mental health system changed to managed care, Smoky Mountain LME/MCO eliminated these services. Duncan Sumpter, CEO of ACS, feels these services are essential in keeping individuals out of behavioral health crisis situations. ACS provides these services in all seven Western North Carolina (WNC) counties. Last year 93 individuals were able to benefit from this program and since July 1 of this year 47 individuals have already received these supportive services.

“We have other programs like the Assertive Community Treatment Teams (ACTT) but many people do not meet the criteria. About 80% of the individuals in the EAS were denied ACTT services.” states Sumpter. “This grant from Evergreen is essential to help keep these individuals out of crisis situations by providing the support they need.”

Sumpter has had Evergreen Foundation funding for three years is hoping to use the data from this pilot project to show how these services save money by providing supports in the community and decreasing the need for costly psychiatric hospitalizations. He wants more individuals to be able to access these needed services.

“I don’t think I would be where I am today without all of the help I am getting through Appalachian,” concluded Thomas.

To learn more about services available through ACS, a comprehensive behavioral health provider, visit their web site at www.acswnc.com. The mission of the Evergreen Foundation is to improve access to and public awareness of quality prevention, treatment, and support services by the provider community to individuals and families with intellectual/developmental disabilities, behavioral health, and/or substance abuse needs in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties. To learn more about the Evergreen Foun