Open Hearts Family Wellness

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Youth Evaluation and Treatment Centers announced their rebranding. The centers have been a leader in the behavioral health community for more than 40 years. The organization is now called Open Hearts Family Wellness. Arjelia Gomez, president and CEO of Open Hearts Family Wellness talks about the rebranding project.

Jose Cardenas: Youth evaluation and treatment centers, YETC announced their rebranding during a community event. The centers have been a leader in the behavioral health community for more than 40 years. The organization is now called Open Hearts Family Wellness. Joining me to talk about this is Arjelia Gomez, president and CEO of Open Hearts Family Wellness. Welcome back to "Horizonte." When did you move over?

Arjelia Gomez: I moved over in August, it's been about six months; I've taken the helm as a CEO.

Jose Cardenas: Significant changes, one of them the rebranding we were just talking about. How did that come about?

Arjelia Gomez: The board of directors had an idea that they wanted to do this, largely because the world of behavior health, especially with children, is changing. And the board thought, you know, the name is outdated, we need to do something different so first meeting, first board meeting in August we made some decisions about who to engage and embarked on that process and last week culminated with a rebranding.

Jose Cardenas: So as you indicated the name may have been outdated but it really did capture the target population, which is youth. Tell us about what you do for them.

Arjelia Gomez: So our population is zero to 18. We have intensive outpatient substance abuse programming that involves youth, their family, group work, individual work but very focused on substance abuse issues. A lot of that population is in their teens. They are the 12 to 15, 17-year-olds. We do behavioral health counseling for parents that have children with autism. So the whole spectrum from the very early diagnosis, usually the family comes in to us, they stay three or four, five years because the needs of the child and the family don't change in terms of the needs being present. We do trauma informed care. We do regular outpatient therapy. We do it for access population and for private pay. So we do insurance private pay, as well.

Jose Cardenas: You talked about things changing and that's part of the reason for the name change. Since 1974 when the center was founded, what has changed that has most impacted what the center does and how it does it?

Arjelia Gomez: I would say that two things were the major impact. One was the fact that this was a program back when I was a probation officer in Pinal County in '74, '76, was making referrals to their residential program. And when the funding changed for that and that was no longer a priority in the state, they closed those centers down and moved to regular outpatient behavioral. So that was a very significant move. I think the next piece that's evolving now is the push for integration. Medical model integration and we're going to take a position that the medical model is good and appropriate but it has to include wellness as a real emphasis so if you teach a 7-year-old how to breathe when their frustrated and angry you may not give them pills the rest of their lives. You teach them a skill when they're seven, 17, 37, as opposed to medication being the only answer. We intend to lead the way.

Jose Cardenas: When you talk about medical model integration, who's the they and why?

Arjelia Gomez: The comprehensive medical services for the federal level has pushed that model on the adult side so here in Arizona, in Maricopa County specifically, you see the clinics for the seriously mentally ill. There's a lot of medication, a lot of doctors, a lot of nurses, we have a psychiatrist, Dr. Brian Espinosa works with us, we have a nurse practitioner that works with us, they see children but it's not always about the medication, it's about the mind and the body. And our intent is to really focus and be purposeful on what we do to say to families there are lots of things in the community that after you leave us, our job is to connect you to the community and make sure you're not always dependent on a behavioral health system.

Jose Cardenas: What about state support? What do you get from the state of Arizona?

Arjelia Gomez: So the state, access is going to be the new caretaker of the behavioral health dollars. That shift is in the process of being made. Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care I think is doing a really good job on the kid's side, which is where I live, so what I mean by that is that they're paying attention to not just the medical model but to the wellness model. Eddie Broadway, the CEO of Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care, is very alert and very astute to the fact that families' needs are not just going to be met with medication, that the therapy, the counseling, the wellness coaching that goes into wrapping the services around a family is absolutely necessary and critical.

Jose Cardenas: And where does the majority of your funding come from? From the federal government?

Arjelia Gomez: Right now, it's 100% Mercy Maricopa Integrated Medical Care. I hope that I can turn my focus to bringing in dollars through foundations and other opportunities, private care. Just trying to expand the horizon of funding and diversify our funding streams.

Jose Cardenas: And you also want to diversify as I understand it your target population?

Arjelia Gomez: Right. I believe that we are very poised to move to that 18 to 27-year-old group. There are lots of good organizations that do that niche population, many, many. But I think that we're poised to do it differently and get a different outcome.

Jose Cardenas: How so?

Arjelia Gomez: I think again the idea of wellness, meditation, yoga, fitness, walking, running, taking care of your physical self, will make a lot of difference to how you think and what you want to do with your life. People are not going to just go to the doctor and get a pill. Many, many people don't. That's why diabetics and blood pressure, those folks wind up in the emergency rooms because they don't take their medication. But if you teach a family, a whole family, how to work together and be healthy, nutrition, vitamins, things that make sense to them, and do that in a constructive way and in a safe environment, I think that we will be much more successful, especially that 18 to 24-year-olds.

Jose Cardenas: What about outreach to the Hispanic community?

Arjelia Gomez: Going around and walking whatnot, so our organization serves about 55% Latino families. About 30% of those families, the moms and dads are primary Spanish speakers so we do a lot of outreach to them. The conversation with those parents in particular is around come and have a coffee and let's talk about what's going on in your home and giving those parents the capacity to talk to each other. So much of the time our families can learn a lot from each other and our job is to facilitate that learning and the place where they can talk safely.

Jose Cardenas: We just put up some pictures of your location. Best of luck, congratulations.

Arjelia Gomez: Thank you so much.

Jose Cardenas: Hope to have you back to see how things are going.

Arjelia Gomez: I'll be glad to be back.

Jose Cardenas: Thank you very much for joining us on "Horizonte." And that's our show for tonight. Thank you for watching. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and your Arizona PBS station, I'm Jose Cardenas, have a good evening.

Video: "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Arjelia Gomez: President and CEO of Open Hearts Family Wellness

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