Episode 6 of the More than Health Care: A Community Health Conversation podcast is now available on the Alliance’s website and on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. Every other week, a new episode uncovers keys to collaboration and holistic health in pursuit of improved health outcomes and lower costs for all.

In this latest episode, we learn about Beech Acres Parenting Center of Cincinnati, Ohio. For this organization, serving children and families has proven to be a constant evolution from its beginning as an orphanage 170 years ago. And the organization knows that today’s health and well-being landscape requires new and innovative approaches for treating children and families holistically, rather than merely focusing on the individual needing medical care and social services. This means relationships must be created between health care, schools, and social service providers for the best outcomes. Jim Mason, president and CEO of Beech Acres, recognizes these changes, "When we started, we didn’t worry at all about health care … We were in our lane, and health care was in their lane. About all we had to do with health care was have the foster parents drive the kids to doctors’ offices and that was about it.”

Now, Beech Acres partners with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children to provide a deeper reach into helping identify adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in patients seen at the hospital and then offering resources that the medical staff does not have the insight or experience to provide. The program is called Parent Connects, and it provides a holistic approach that looks at all ACEs through parent coaches and specialists within 10 pediatricians’ offices in the region. “We’ve done about 7,000 screens in the last two years,” said Mason. If the screens reveal a need for follow up, Beech Acres staff engages the parents, who may also have ACEs, with next steps such as motivational interviewing and coaching. It's not meant to be a long-term intervention … two sessions are our average, Mason explained.

Another area where Beech Acres sees opportunities for growth in overall population health is through the education system. Traditionally, therapists interact with students in need based on standard Medicaid reimbursement which provided minimal engagement. “It’s a transactional band-aid on a significant problem," said Mason. “We have an approach to schools called the Whole School Solution … it engages not just the child and treatment, but also the parent and the teachers, so you're looking at all the stakeholders in the school.” To further this holistic approach, Beech Acres also offers peer support to students’ parents; provides help to teachers through a program called Care for Teachers, which is an evidence-based program highlighting self-care; and has developed The Character Effect ™, a program designed to improve a student’s self-control while increasing classroom participation and an atmosphere of respect for others.

Beech Acres understands the modern and evolving nature of the health and well-being landscape. By addressing and treating all aspects related to the cause and effect of a child's health, community service providers can, and must, work with other institutions for better outcomes. Mason feels that if this approach is not taken, the health care industry will move into social service areas that are now best served by community-based organizations like his, but if a partnership exists, all will strengthen what each does best and benefit as a result. “They [health care] will go into continuing with the traditional case management, the transactional approach to health care. We bring the holistic approach to wellness,” said Mason. His advice for community service organizations is to seek out and build relationships with health care providers the education system, and other institutions so that the unique expertise each has can be used in a manner that delivers the full whole-community, holistic approach to health and wellness.

Listen to Jim Mason provide additional insight into how he and Beech Acres serve its community by listening to Episode 6 of the More than Health Care Podcast available through the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities website or subscribe on the Apple Podcast, Google Play, or Spotify apps.

For more information on the evolution of Beech Acres, watch Mason’s Snapshots presentation, Stepping Off the Strategy Cliff. He shares how he recovered his own sense of purpose to lead his organization in a new direction and toward a more significant future.