News Article Details

Community Support Services, Cerebral Palsy of Tri-County will merge to expand services

Joplin Globe - 8/29/2018

Aug. 29--Christy Graham wants to help all of her "little campers" as much as possible.

That's the purpose of a merger announced Tuesday between two organizations with similar missions, Community Support Services of Missouri and Cerebral Palsy of Tri-County. The two organizations on Jan. 1 will become one and will be known as Community Support Services of Missouri -- Cerebral Palsy Center.

Graham, executive director of Cerebral Palsy of Tri-County in Webb City, said that when the center applies for grants, the response is usually a recommendation that the center needs to collaborate to expand its reach to qualify for financial assistance.

"Even though we work with United Way almost daily, they wanted us to serve more people. By partnering with Community Support Services, we should be able to do that, and then children in other parts of Jasper and Newton counties may have access they didn't have before," Graham said.

Community Support Services has a staff of 300 that provides services to about 1,500 people in all age groups -- infant to seniors -- in 10 counties.

Cerebral Palsy of Tri-County provides learning and therapeutic services to children up to 6 years old. Right now, there are about 40 children there from Joplin, Webb City, Carl Junction and Carthage who receive learning and therapeutic services for developmental disabilities.

Community Support Services offers a number of programs for children and adults with developmental disabilities, special health and medical needs, and in-home assistance. By joining, the two organizations can provide an expanded array of services. The boards of the two organizations, which also will merge, has what board Presidents Kyle Hickam and Brad Baker called "the perfect partnership" to provide seamless services.

Jhan Hurn, president and CEO of Community Support Services, said of the collaboration, "I just believe the coming together of these two local extraordinary organizations is a tremendous opportunity to serve the children with special needs."

"Community Support Services has some resources that the CP center is not able to provide because of its size," he said. "We can provide some expanded benefits for the staff. But with the two of us together, we can look at expanding the availability of resources to the individuals we serve through contracts, through more grants, and through voluntary activities.

Community Support Services has financial resources provided by state and federal contracts through the Department of Mental Health, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Department of Health.

"What we are going to do with those resources is put them back into our program so we can provide more therapies, special instruction and more certified teachers." Hurn said. A specific benefit that Community Support Services can provide is a much larger number of therapists who can work with the children at the cerebral palsy center to address a variety of special needs, he said.

Graham said that "each year the need for early childhood services grows; today there are over 500 children in Southwest Missouri that have been diagnosed as developmentally disabled." The merger will help the center to take or reach out to assist to more of those children.

Marcia Hoth, of Webb City, has an 8-year-old son who attended the center from ages 2 to 7. Now he is in a regular classroom to attend second grade. She credits his abilities now to the assistance he received from the center.

Hoth adopted the boy, who was taken from his birth family because he had suffered shaken baby syndrome and was treated at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City as an infant.

"He had neurological issues, bone issues and he was in five different clinics at Children's Mercy," she said. "I was referred to the CP center" to obtain local help with this condition. "He got his speech, physical therapy and some occupational therapy. He would not be where he is today if he had not had the early intervention he had. He has done things they thought he would never do. I tell people all the time -- early intervention."

She sees the benefits of the merger.

"I think that's going to open a lot more doors for a lot more children" as well as provide more training to the staff at the center. "I just see it as an absolute positive."

Shelly Keeling, cerebral palsy center director, gave a tour to visitors on Tuesday as she talked about the therapies and services there.

For children 3 and older, "We teach them to learn their names, to write their names, and write the letters (of the alphabet)." They also work on thematic assignments, creating art and learning about topics such as last week's theme on the Wild West and this week's theme called "All About Me."

"Children 0-3 are working on developmentally what they need to do next," Keeling said. "We take a child where they are and move them forward. So if they are learning to just take steps for the first time, we work on that, shapes, colors, whatever they need."

Graham said the center will have the resources to work with any child with any diagnosis, not solely cerebral palsy.

While Cerebral Palsy of Tri-County has existed more than 60 years and Community Support Services is now 40 years old, "we have 100 years of experience together now and the future looks bright. We need to see all those little campers that need us," Graham said.

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(c)2018 The Joplin Globe (Joplin, Mo.)

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