YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Throughout all of its services, from walk-in counseling to addiction treatment to employment services and residential aid, there’s a single unifying goal behind the work Coleman Professional Services does.
“Our goal is to see as many as possible on any given day so they can get assessed or meet with a licensed provider and leave with appointments. … There’s still a stigma around mental health and you don’t always know you need [help] until you need it,” says Tammy Weaver, Coleman’s vice president of clinical services and its chief officer for Trumbull and Mahoning counties.
“It’s the ability to get an appointment when you feel you need care,” she continues. “A lot of times, people put it off until tomorrow and that exacerbates the crisis. Then they’re in a more challenging situation.”
Coleman Professional Services was founded in 1978 in Portage County and is based in Kent. The nonprofit agency expanded to Trumbull County in 2006 and to Mahoning County in 2017 with the acquisition of Turning Point Counseling Services in Youngstown. Last year alone, Coleman worked with more than 30,000 people through 70,000-plus meetings across its 22-county footprint.
The agency’s offerings are widespread, encompassing everything from addiction treatment, crisis intervention and case management to housing and employment preparation. The Mahoning-Trumbull team employs 88, Weaver says, with 80% to 85% working directly with clients.
Coleman’s most recent expansion was into the emergency department at Trumbull Regional Medical Center, where two Coleman employees are housed to provide behavioral health services. Many of Coleman’s services are intended to meet people where they are and having the site allows for just that while also helping to break the barrier between physical and mental health.
“Oftentimes, people present to the emergency room thinking they’re having a physical symptom, when it may be psychological,” Weaver says. “Many times, the emergency department physicians ask us just to find out if it’s maybe a panic attack, an anxiety attack or if they’re in need of substance use disorder treatment because they’re detoxing and going through withdrawal.”
Through a contract with the Trumbull County Mental Health & Recovery Board, Coleman can place people in residential substance treatment for up to 30 days. If patients don’t have the funds to pay for services themselves, the county agency pays “to get people to the right place,” Weaver says.
Ensuring clients have access to care regardless of their ability to pay has been the core tenet of Coleman since it was founded, with the agency having its own foundation to support services.
According to its “Year at a Glance” report for 2020, nearly three-quarters of those receiving services earned less than $15,999 per year, with 47% of the total earning less than $7,999. Most clients, 60.6%, are between 30 and 64, with the second-largest demographic being those between 18 and 29.
“We don’t turn anyone away. If you walk in and say, ‘I have nothing,’ you’re still going to be seen and we’ll work with you to access your care, whether it’s through case management or someone like our [Supplemental Security Income] benefits specialist,” Weaver says. “She can connect people with benefits or help people complete the applications and evaluations and get those resources established.”
It’s also here that wraparound services enter the picture. Through the county mental health board, Coleman administers about 150 housing vouchers; the program was recently awarded a $1 million grant, 90% of which is reserved for rental subsidies.
Among its sites are two supportive living homes – an eight-bed home for men and a 12-bed home for women. Coleman also received a state Homeless Crisis Response grant to subsidize rent and utilities so those in need aren’t allocating more than 30% of their income to those expenses. And in the coming months, the nonprofit will renovate a house on Washington Street in Warren into three apartments to serve women in recovery taking part in Trumbull County’s family dependency drug court.
“They are working on reunification plans with their children. Some of these women aren’t able to move forward with those plans because they don’t have anywhere to live,” Weaver says. “This would provide permanent rent-supported housing where they can be with their children, hopefully working through their court treatment plan and transitioning back to the community.”
But the services go much deeper, notes development executive Stacia Erdos. Coleman’s offerings are meant to encompass “the whole person,” she says. “If you have a mental illness or are struggling with issues, oftentimes you can’t hold down a job or aren’t able to pay rent,” she says. “They may not have a Social Security card or a birth certificate. That all costs money. They may not have clothing, so once they’re in the recovery process, how can they go to a job interview if they can’t dress for it?”
Part of Coleman’s development plan is to build partnerships throughout the Mahoning Valley, a task that’s becoming increasingly more important with a shortage of workers, both in the field at large and at Coleman. By working with Warren City Schools on a mobile counseling program for teens or Alta Care Group, which primarily works with kids and teenagers, on directing parents to Coleman, providing mental and behavioral health services can be more efficient.
“Alta works primarily with children, and those children have parents who need services too,” Erdos says. “By having relationships with Alta [and other organizations], it strengthens the whole connection and all of the Mahoning Valley for people who need help.”
Also on the to-do list is expanding its crisis center, currently housed on the first floor of the Atrium Building in downtown Warren, where Coleman has an office. The center provides walk-in services and allows counselors to help people figure out their next steps, leaving with an appointment for future services and, often, a plan of care.
“If someone presents and is in a crisis, more in need of a level-of-care assessment, we can do that immediately,” Weaver says. “That means we can determine if they need to go to a hospital, to a crisis stabilization unit or go home with a crisis plan of care” before following up the next day.
Putting that office in a standalone location, she continues, would allow Coleman to provide 24/7 services and further work with law enforcement, allowing them to bring residents dealing with mental health problems or other crises at any time.
As Coleman prepares to expand its services in Mahoning and Trumbull county, the efforts will carry the agency’s mission of providing care when, where and how people need it.
“We make sure they’re walking out with an appointment, with a plan of care, that someone’s able to take care of their pets. You have to think about many other issues when someone’s in a crisis. It could be their kids, their home or leaving food in the refrigerator if they need to be at a hospital for a week,” Weaver says. “It’s about having an empathic response and not judging people. That immediate access to care helps people because they’re there in the moment.”