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Today's Family Magazine

Beech Brook provides hope and healing for local families

By Deanna Adams

Almost everyone needs help with personal problems at some point in their lives, and many times you don’t know where to turn.  Yet, one phone call could make a difference.  That phone call is often to Beech Brook, a premier behavioral health agency located in Pepper Pike.

“We work specifically with families and children, and have partnerships with almost 100 schools throughout northeast Ohio, including Cuyahoga, Summit, Geauga and Lorain counties,” says Nancy Kortemeyer, senior director of marketing and communications at Beech Brook.  “Early intervention is key.  The earlier we can address and help problematic situations, the better for the child’s future.”

The agency has a long history.  It opened as the Cleveland Orphan Asylum back in 1852.  Its mission of hope and healing for children and families remains a steadfast tradition.  Their services are wide ranging and future focused.  The experienced and authorized staff help children and adults through early intervention, and education and support, as well as treatment for those who have experienced severe trauma.  The qualified staff members visit schools, homes, daycare centers, foster homes, and many other community settings to offer their services to children and families who need to move forward successfully.

Kortemeyer calls it “moving upstream.”  Beech Brook president and CEO, Thomas Royer describes that concept.  “When we deal only with the aftermath of traumatic events and toxic environments, we are suffering from the results of downstream thinking.  We are treating the effects but not the cause of the suffering that too many children and families are enduring.  We are not keeping our children from drowning.

“With this in mind, we are reshaping the way we approach and do our work at Beech Brook.  We will be working every day to identify those who are experiencing unhealthy social determinants of health, to reduce school violence, to keep families together, and as our mission guides us, to help children and families thrive.  We are focused not only on treating but on preventing the devastating toll of today’s epidemic—abuse, trauma, daily exposure to violence, the toxic stress of living in poverty—and its lifelong impact on our children, our families and future of our community.  We are moving upstream.”

“We feel so strong about the community needs and our mission,” says Kortemeyer, who has worked at Beech Brook for 27 years.  “We want to make the biggest difference in young people’s lives.  We begin with early childhood programs because that’s truly the starting point.  It’s hard for some to believe, but there are children who are expelled in preschool for out-of-control behaviors.  So the need is great to get the children help as soon as possible.”

Beech Brook offers a wide range of programs concerning issues that include child abuse prevention, education and early intervention, as well as community and home-based treatment programs for at-risk children and families. 

Among the 43 specialized programs and services that Beech Brook provides are:
School-based mental health services and support: Beech Brook currently provides therapy and support services for children, parents and staff in 96 schools in Cuyahoga, Summit, Lorain and Geauga counties.

Early childhood services: Through mental health services, child care consultation and parenting classes that help parents understand and support their child’s brain development, Beech Brook is trying to help young children overcome problems early in life.

Parent education and support:  Beech Brook offers a variety of  parenting classes and support services that improve parenting skills and strengthen families.

Family Preservation and Intensive Home-Based Treatment (IHBT):  These programs provide in-home, intensive, short-term crisis intervention designed to stabilize and preserve families.

STRIDE (Skill Building, Teaching, Role Modeling, Independence, Development, Empowerment): This mentoring program pairs a child or teenager with a staff member to provide extra support during stressful times and encourage the child to participate in positive activities.

Sex Education: Beech Brook’s Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) programming is designed to help youths, ages 10–18, understand the emotional, social and physical changes that are occurring in their lives.  The goal of the program is to educate, inform, empower and motivate these young people to take control of their future by making healthy and responsible choices now and in the years to come.

Then there is the Foster Care Program, one of the agency's most challenging missions.  “We are always in need of foster parents,” Kortemeyer says.  “Naturally, we’d prefer that children never experience trauma of being removed from their families, but we’re here to help when that happens.”

Indeed, there are times when children must be taken from their homes, temporarily or permanently, for their own protection.  Children come into foster care with problems stemming anywhere from abuse and neglect, exposure to violence, or parental drug and alcohol addiction.  “The need for foster parents is even more urgent today, much due to the opioid crisis,” says Kortemeyer.

Beech Brook foster parents play an important role in helping these children overcome their trauma.  The foster parents provide a 24-hour therapeutic environment where healing can begin. “We provide extensive training and support for foster parents and are in at least weekly contact with them,“ Kortemeyer notes.   “Our case workers and therapists work continually with them to help in all manners.”

It’s also important to note that Beech Brook also provides services for youth, ages 18–21, who are aging out of foster care through Ohio’s Bridges program, which provides the support needed to make a successful transition into adulthood.

Kortemeyer summarizes why Beech Brook’s mission of moving upstream is so important.  “You can’t give a kid back a lost childhood.  That’s why we want to make a difference early in children’s lives, before they are hurt or traumatized, so they can have the best beginnings.”

Beech Brook is housed at 3737 Lander Road in Pepper Pike.  For more info call (216) 831-2255 or visit www.beechbrook.org.


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