Directions for Living expands into South County

By KEVIN BRADY

Directions for Living made contact with many potential clients at the Back To School Program at Good Samaritan Mission in Wimauma Aug. 9. Staffing the booth at the event are, from left, Kasie Boehn, Gail Ruse and Jacki Malone.  Kevin Brady Photo.

Directions for Living made contact with many potential clients at the Back To School Program at Good Samaritan Mission in Wimauma Aug. 9. Staffing the booth at the event are, from left, Kasie Boehn, Gail Ruse and Jacki Malone.
Kevin Brady Photo.

Directions for Living, a community mental health program that has provided counseling to Pinellas County families for 30 years, is coming to South County.

The group’s mission is to “be a welcoming and compassionate provider, advocate and partner to children, adults and families in need of integrated healthcare, social support, safety and hope for the future.”

“It’s about catching families early [when they are suffering] the stressors of not having jobs or working long hours, so we try to teach how to capture those quality moments and make the best out of those,”  said Jacki Malone, a director at Directions for Living.

Sponsored through the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, Directions for Living will be providing services in Wimauma, Apollo Beach, Gibsonton and Ruskin with three parent-educators and a case manager initially assigned to the four-community area.

An early childhood consultation program is the group’s first step into South County. That program involves parent-educators who go into the home and “work with parents on attachment, literacy, on resources of how to build relationships with your children and how to handle discipline,” Malone said.

Directions for Living plans to have a South County office “but our job will be to be out in the community, in homes working with families,” Malone said. “There will be no coming to the office, we will be working out in the community.

“Our early childhood consultation program is something we are very proud of and that has been very successful in Pinellas County, especially with children birth to 5, but here we will be birth to 12,” Malone said.

Working with families and helping to give them a voice in schools will be an important part of the program. “A lot of families don’t feel comfortable or empowered to speak up so we will be working with them on that,” she said.

While they will work with local agencies like schools to identify families in need, Malone also wants to develop “Natural Helping Networks.”

“Sometimes it’s a pastor, sometimes it’s someone down the street that everyone goes to,” she said. “We want to find those folks and give them the skills and knowledge we have so this is something that is sustainable in the community whether we are here or not.”

“Finding Directions for Living has been a true blessing to us,” said Missy and Jeff, who had been fighting addiction with their 16-year-old daughter for three years, putting her through four rehabilitation centers. “I can’t thank [Directions for Living] enough for everything that it is doing for our family.”

Among the services the groups provides are:

• Prevention, wellness and recovery services: A variety of programs have been designed to help all community members in need, no matter their stage of recovery. From homeless outreach to the New Beginnings recovery center, and from targeted and intensive case management to early childhood consultation, Directions for Living will be there to assist when people need them.

• Adult behavioral health services: Explore the services designed for all adults with behavioral health needs, including treatment for mental illness and substance abuse.

• Children’s behavioral health services: Specializing in serving children ages birth to 18, Directions for Living offers a variety of treatment options for behavioral health needs in kids.

• Child safety and family preservation: devoted to a range of services in the child welfare system, including adoption, foster care, diversion services and dependency case management.

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