The Aunt Bertha Blog

Provider Spotlight Series: A Q&A with Step Up For Mental Health

" I know what it’s like not to know where to turn and I want us to provide resources that empower people to  “step up” and care for both the person in their life dealing with mental health-related issues as well as their own well-being."--Adrienne McCue, Step Up For Mental Health 

As Aunt Bertha launches our Provider Package, making new features and how-to content available to providers who have claimed their listings, we bring you The Provider Spotlight Series--a group of blog postings aimed at showcasing the remarkable work a variety of providers are doing in their communities and the ways in which they are using Aunt Bertha to help them.

We spoke with Adrienne McCue, President and Executive Director at Step Up For Mental Health (formerly AJW Foundation), about how the Chicago-based organization is using Aunt Bertha as a tool to support their work of providing resources not only to those affected by mental health-related issues, but to their families and caregivers as well. 

AB: In a few sentences, what is the mission of your organization and what kinds of services do you offer to advance your mission?

sufmh_logo_web_1080.pngSUFMH: While our name used to be different, our mission hasn’t changed. We simply wanted our name to reflect on exactly the work we are trying to do as an organization. Step Up For Mental Health’s mission is to support, educate and provide services to empower families living with the challenges of mental health disorders. We believe that mental health issues impact social issues including education, homelessness and poverty. Step Up For Mental Health strives to match families with resources to help move them toward a more productive life. There’s a huge stigma attached to mental health issues and we want to work to end that stigma.

On a personal note, I was a caregiver for my mother [for many years growing up] who suffered from schizophrenia until her death in 2012. I know what it’s like not to know where to turn and I want us to provide resources that empower people to  “step up” and care for both the person in their life dealing with mental health-related issues as well as their own well-being.

AB: How do people learn about your programs?

SUFMH: At the moment, mostly through word of mouth and social media. We recently listed our programs on Aunt Bertha and are now encouraging people to connect with us there as well! 

AB: What challenges have you faced in the past in finding people for your programs?

SUFMH: Because we are an emerging non-profit and just went through a name change, we had to figure out how to let the community know about Step Up For Mental Health as a resource. We have recently been getting alot of traction, which is great. 

AB: How does Aunt Bertha work as a tool to help you find and connect with people interested in your programs?

SUFMH: Lisiting our programs on Aunt Bertha has given us the opportunity to grow our reach and connect with more people in need in Chicagoland. The ability to update each program's description and other information really helps people understand what we do and how we can help them and their families. 

 AB: Are there any other ways you use or plan to use Aunt Bertha in your work?

SUFMH: We love Aunt Bertha!  We learned about [the platform] through a webinar and before our programs were even listed, we began using the site to refer people who had called in for mental health related services, but who also needed other services.

unnamed.jpgMental health is more than just “I need housing”. It's “I can’t get out of bed”.  We give people the option to self-navigate using Aunt Bertha, or we assist them in using the platform. While we don’t operate as a crisis hotline, we want to be able to support people (whether it be in the short or long term) to find services that will improve their overall quality of life.


AB: What are some of your reflections about social service access and referrals, and how does Step Up for Mental Health fit into that space?

SUFMH: In a time of great crisis, people dealing with mental health issues or their caregivers can be under even more stress. I’d like to be able to say, “Okay, you just relax, let me get a package together for you and get you the information you need”. That’s where Aunt Bertha really comes into play because I can’t do everything. We’re small, but if I have tools, like Aunt Bertha, I can make a huge impact with the resources I do have.

Are you a direct service provider in your community or know of an organization doing impactful direct service work? Click here to learn more about how to claim a program on Aunt Bertha and unlock free team sharing, reporting and referral management functionality, all in one user-friendly tool!

Contributor: Adrienne McCue



Topics: Mental Health Social Services Provider Package Provider Spotlight Series Chicago

Five Things to Consider in Your Social Service Coordination Efforts

People in need, as well as those helping them, have traditionally encountered many challenges around finding and connecting to the programs and resources that can help them. For individuals, especially those without easy internet access, it’s difficult to uncover the state and government-funded programs for which they qualify and even more so to discover the myriad of private and charitable resources available.

Case workers, social workers, families, and others in a helping role are presented with another set of challenges including time constraints, unstructured data, incorrect or outdated information, and lack of insight into programs and services available outside of their local areas.

For care teams, a lack of formal processes around identifying patient social needs and follow up also make it nearly impossible to ‘close the loop’ on whether the patient was able to connect and receive help after the referral was made.

To make matters more difficult, not everyone is comfortable offering information about their personal needs and those needs often go undiscovered, undocumented, and excluded from the care plan. Expeditious and personalized social coordination is key to improving many of the metrics health care organizations are tracking for success and is no longer a component of patient care that can be ignored without consequence. 

As people begin working to organize or increase social service coordination within their care settings, here are five areas to consider:

  1. COMMUNICATION. Make sure questions around social needs are part of the process at various stages of the patient journey. People have different comfort levels with different staff members. Don’t leave it to discharge planners alone to uncover outside factors influencing patient health and wellness. In addition, work to improve communication and collaboration among care teams at all points along the care continuum. According to expert Cheri Lattimer, Executive Director for the Case Management Society of America (CMSA) and National Transitions of Care Coalition (NTOCC), integrated care teams that effectively communicate during transitions and throughout the other stages in the patient journey see higher staff and patient engagement, as well as, an overall improvement in health outcomes. 
  2. ALWAYS INCLUDE CASE MANAGERS/SOCIAL WORKERS. Keep case management and social service teams in the loop at all times. Their function is an integral part of a patient-centered care plan.
  3. STANDARDIZE. Set up a uniform way to manage social coordination within the organization and work to get everyone ‘on the same page’. It will enhance efficiencies and make it easier to track progress. Providing standardized tools and processes will also help care teams eliminate information silos and function more cohesively when addressing patient needs that fall outside of the medical spectrum.
  4. EMPOWER. Empower everyone (including the patient and those helping him) to get involved in creating a good outcome. One way is by providing an easy way for everyone to find and connect with the programs and services that can help them stay well. Since patient needs outnumber staff resources, facilitating patient involvement is a good way to distribute the case load. Most people want to help themselves and are willing to take the proper steps if pointed in the right direction. 
  5. Analyze the data and monitor trends. Uncovering service gaps can provide insight and drive smarter decisions within the organization. Efficient and timely social coordination improves health outcomes, as well, as patient satisfaction. 
Social factors impacting patient health is no longer a topic of discussion solely reserved for discharge planners coordinating transitions. It’s in the best interest of everyone involved in the patient’s journey to be informed and empowered to help when necessary.
Topics: Social Services access to social services care coordination

Utility Assistance Programs and Texas Heat!

Since I’m the fresh faced and energetic (except before 10 A.M.) intern, one of the first tasks I worked on was finding all the utility assistance programs (UAPs) in Texas (que the audible gulp). Utilities Assistance Programs are programs that are designed to help lower the price of utilities to a more manageable level for low income families. I quickly began my task of finding the best UAPs (I found 65+ energy providers throughout Texas). Providing an opportunity for families across the state of Texas to have help during these Texas summers.

I was born and raised in Austin, and I’ve learned that there are only two sure-fire ways to beat the heat: go to a body of water (a pool, a creek, or even a slip-n-slide) with a tasty beverage, or the sweet relief of air conditioning.

But for some, the second option is not reasonable due to the high cost of utilities. For some the only way they can afford relief from the heat is with UAP programs. These programs range from subsidy programs, loan programs, and discount programs.

There was one program I found called Operation Round-Up which is designed to help families help other families pay their utility bill. The way this program works is that people donate a little extra money on their utility bill to help others. Let’s say your bill was $19.85, it would then be rounded up to $20.00 and those fifteen cents would go on to help those who need a little extra help with their bill.

There are over 250 counties in Texas and most counties have at least two or three separate programs designed to help people beat the heat. Finding these programs was a challenge for me so I imagine someone who hasn’t had the experience or the time may feel frustrated. I’m glad the programs are now 3 clicks away using Aunt Bertha!

Tommie Leon is the chief intern of technical stuff for Aunt Bertha. He's currently a senior Spanish and Latin American Studies major at American University and has a passion for equal access for all people.
Topics: austin internet Energy Assistance Internship Utility Assistance Programs Heat Tommie Leon American University UAP Texas Social Services Summers