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$4M grant would help local youth

Communicare, a community health center in Oxford, is seeking a $4 million grant that would help increase services to area children and their families.

Last month, Susan Rogers, director of Communicare, asked the Oxford Board of Aldermen to be the lead agency for the grant should it be awarded, which would require the city to administer the funds. The board tabled the request to allow the city’s legal team and its grant writer, Lynn Wilkins, to review the grant.

On Tuesday, Wilkins and Rogers went back before the aldermen with some updated information. In reviewing the stipulations of the grant, it was discovered a political subdivision could apply for the grant on its own, without needing a local government agency to be the lead agency.

“We’ve spoken to attorneys and received a couple opinions from the Attorney General’s Office and we found out Communicare is a political subdivision, so we can apply for the grant on our own behalf,” Rogers told the board.

Rogers said all she needed from the city was a letter of collaboration, committing the city to work with Communicare as needed.

“I appreciate your support and that you even considered being lead agency when we asked,” Rogers told the board.

Political subdivisions are local organizations created by the states to help fulfill their obligations. Political subdivisions include school districts, water districts, park districts and airport districts and local mental health agencies that are funded through the state.

The grant is from the Department of Health and Human Service’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, known as the SAMHSA System of Care grant.

The grant would allow Communicare to work with all segments of the community that serve children with mental health and emotional disorders, so more services could be offered to the families.

“This will increase the speed and intensity which a child and his or her family is served, so it will increase positive outcomes and chances of recovery,” Rogers said.

The System of Care model would begin work in Oxford and Lafayette County and then reach out to one of the other five counties Communicare serves.

Communicare serves Calhoun, Lafayette, Marshall, Panola, Tate, and Yalobusha counties. It offers outpatient mental health services for children and operates a group home for women with serious mental illness as well as a residential substance abuse treatment center. Communicare also provides school-based services in several school districts, including Oxford and Lafayette County.

The grant would allow Communicare to add resources for mental health throughout the community. These resources — such as family therapists, special programs, and caseworkers — would be available to Oxford Police Department officers, the Oxford Housing Authority, community service organizations, Oxford and Lafayette school districts, and other child and family support organizations and services.

If awarded, Communicare would receive $1 million a year for four years.

The grant also would allow Communicare to add more family therapists and make them available to agencies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If there is an emergency, someone is always available.

“Police currently cannot do anything to support families and youth who have problems but have not yet committed a crime, even if OPD has been called to an incident or crisis situation,” Rogers said.

SOC funds could pay for a therapists to respond and intervene and connect the family to services and programs that could assist the child.

The funds could also help to possibly create an educational support space to serve expelled and suspended children which could be filled with computers and staffed with mental health professionals.