His mind screaming with frustration, 5-year-old D.J. Thomas would hurl his head toward a concrete floor, a wall, anything he could find.
His impulse-control issues were so intense that, when his mother first took him to Methodist Family Health’s (MFH) Therapeutic Day Treatment School in 2003, staffers were commonly charged with getting a helmet on him. Just 5 years later, he was happily and politely greeting the school’s visitors.
D.J.’s progress is just one of the positive stories that commonly unfold across MFH’s continuum of offerings, which range from counseling, foster care and early childhood development to crisis response, emergency shelter and group homes. “It’s a beautiful thing to see kids who’ve probably spent much of their lives in the continuum graduate into the real world as happy and productive adults,” said Jan Snider, a member of MFH’s Foundation Board since November 2008.
A commercial real estate professional, Jan became involved with MFH through her work as a board member with the Center for Addictions Research, Education & Services (AR CARES). In 2007, a few years after she joined that board, the nonprofit prevention and treatment program for pregnant women and mothers with substance abuse and mental health problems and their children migrated from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to MFH. Even under UAMS, AR CARES was renting buildings from MFH, which had all the makings to help the program be profitable. “[AR CARES] was a very expensive program, but the results were just undeniable about how successful it was,” Snider said.
Take the story of Cherresa Baker. Suffering from addiction and believing that some people were just destined to fail, she came to AR CARES after her 7-year-old son asked her why he had to go to school looking so bad. Having grown up in foster homes, Baker didn’t want her child to go through the same experiences. Get and stay clean long enough for him to fend for himself, and then I can go back to sulking in misery and dying a slow death, she thought. Thanks to the program, she’s now well into her mechanical engineering coursework at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and her story appears in the pages of MFH’s newsmagazine.
To witness such experiences is incredible, Snider said; “I am so proud to be a small part of this.” Of course she’s become a bigger part now that she’s a member of the board, and the expansiveness of MFH—and its needs—is something even she finds remarkable, despite her familiarity. “We impact the lives of more than 1,700 children, women and families in 22 Arkansas cities on a daily basis,” she said.
The organization has entities within entities. Its Little Rock counseling clinic contains the Kaleidoscope Grief Center, which helps children who have lost a sibling or loved one, for example. “The need is great for all of our services,” Snider said. Before the 2001 opening of the Methodist Behavior Hospital in Maumelle, for instance, children with major psychiatric issues had to be sent to general hospitals to be stabilized, she said. Often those kids didn’t return to the MFH program, which disrupted their treatment. As a result, some children with histories of abandonment and neglect might go on to have 30 foster-home placements in three years, she said.
Today, the hospital is a source of pride for MFH. “To say it’s a psychiatric hospital, especially for children, is just not doing it justice,” Snider said. “It is just so bright and cheerful and has lots of colors. It makes you happy, not sad.”
Considering the demand for its services, it’s no surprise that MFH also has a great need. Its Children’s Home, where the AR CARES program is housed, is 65 years old and requires constant upkeep, Snider said. It’s easy to help, though. People can give money for MFH’s greatest needs, volunteer with the kids, bring a singing group or band to its spirituality services or purchase Christmas toys for the kids, she said.
“The mission of Methodist Family Health is very near and dear to my heart,” she said, and not just because her mother and aunts were temporarily placed in its orphanage during the Great Depression after the death of Snider’s grandmother. “I believe if you can save an individual, you can save a community. When you go and see for yourself the love and care that is happening on the MFH campus, it feels like your heart just got big.”