It is incredibly unique and impactful to serve in a community where so many organizations come together to assess and address the most critical needs facing local youth. Your Hope Center has humbly and vigorously crept from one school-based clinician in late 2018 to sixteen clinicians supporting every public school in the Eagle River Valley. Hannah Ross stepped up as the first school-based clinician in 2018, based out of Homestake Peak School. With a background in social work that stemmed from a Dual Enrollment opportunity in high school, Hannah adores advocating for families and embraces opportunities to change systems to support healthy environments and therefore positive behaviors. In her previous work as an Eagle County School District Prevention Coordinator, Hannah recognized the needs facing many local students. She focused on school and district strategies, as well as student referrals to therapy, yet there were frankly very few therapists available to refer to. Hannah was eager to join Your Hope Center when they opened their doors in our community and has grown into a supervisor role, supporting ten school-based clinicians. “I am most proud of our clinicians, pivoting to meet the needs of students, such as expanding into all elementary schools. We have also been enthusiastic about growing our intern program,” Hannah shares. As in many fields, our community does not have as many licensed clinicians as we need to meet the demands of the community, so Your Hope Center dove into a “grow your own”- type model. All Your Hope Center licensed clinicians have, at minimum, a masters in the field. In order to attract and retain quality therapists, they are able to hire and supervise masters and doctoral-level candidates as interns and enable them to gain their required hours and real-life experience by serving in schools with close support from veteran colleagues.
Your Hope Center school-based clinicians may provide individual, group, and family supports all within the school building for students and families, typically on a weekly basis. Common presenting concerns include trauma, domestic violence, depression, anxiety, grief, difficult peer relationships, family divorce, moving- any significant life or behavioral change that may have a long-term impact on the student. This enables school counselors to stay focused on addressing short-term needs, academic resources, and broad universal prevention supports for all students. Your Hope Center referrals often derive from a school counselor or parent, and this resource is free of barriers like cost and transportation. Hannah describes her work as, “Incredibly rewarding, different almost every day, definitely NOT monotonous.” Hannah explains, “It is so fun to work with students and see their growth. We get to be there for them at some of their darkest moments and at some of their highest highs.” Jordan Shomaker is a school-based therapist who recently joined the Your Hope Center team. Jordan enjoys the culture and comradery among the team, and is able to find support and guidance in a field that can often feel intimidating and isolating. “I know I can call on Hannah as my supervisor or the school-based team to feel empowered and confident as I find my voice as a therapist. The chance to work for an organization so committed to making a difference in the community feels like a huge blessing,” Jordan reflects.
By the numbers, Your Hope Center served 803 students in the 2021-2022 school year and has already served nearly 600 students in the 2022-2023 school year. In addition to school-based therapy, Your Hope Center offers a crisis response and community stabilization programs. Crisis Response includes a helpline staffed 24/7. Anyone can call and a clinician will answer. They are able to come on-site, offer a safety assessment and co-respond with law enforcement and paramedics. Community Stabilization is an intense program for individuals experiencing extreme suicide ideation, often coming out of hospitalization. This can look like multiple therapy sessions per week plus case management, with piling on other supports that can boost health factors. All programs are voluntary.
There is never a fee for any Your Hope Center programs, striving for barrier-fee care. How do they do it? Gracious support has come in through Eagle County Public Health, Eagle County School District, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health and other donors. Your Hope Center is always grateful for contributions, and the upcoming Colorado Gives Day on December 6th is a great day to give to Your Hope Center, Mountain Youth and dozens of other local agencies as all donations are boosted. Additional support will keep Your Hope Center services barrier-free, enable expansion particularly at the high school level, maintain caseloads of no more than 20-30 clients, and maybe even support a dream of floating clinicians to best support local students in need. As Jordan describes, “The kids I get to work with have endured a lot in their lives and they deserve support, health, and happiness.” Let’s help ensure Hannah, Jordan and Your Hope Center can continue building resilience in their students and families.
Written by Michelle Stecher, Executive Director of Mountain Youth, firstname.lastname@example.org