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Standardized Assessment Protocol Pilot Is Expanding to In Home Family Services

Benchmarks recently completed implementation of the Standardized Assessment Protocol (SAP) in Burke, Rutherford, and Surry Counties, with a target population of children and youth involved in foster care. The process implemented was specifically for children and youth ages four and older, with the goal of assisting the child and family’s access to a quality, evidence-informed trauma assessment. We refer to this assessment as the Benchmarks Trauma Intensive Comprehensive Clinical Assessment...

Benchmarks' Partner Spotlight: WellCare of North Carolina is Increasing Access to Trauma-Informed Services

This month, for our partner spotlight, Benchmarks’ Center for Quality Integration (CQi) is highlighting our partners at WellCare of North Carolina, one of the five Managed Care Organizations selected to provide statewide healthcare coverage to NC Medicaid recipients through Standard Plans. Standard Plans offer physical and mental/behavioral health coverage to individuals experiencing mild to moderate behavioral health concerns. WellCare works to provide its beneficiaries with access to...

Incorporating Mental Wellness Activities into Daily Practice

During the month of October, we acknowledge Mental Illness Awareness Week (2nd-8th) and World Mental Health Day (10th). In North Carolina alone there are over 1 million adults living with a mental health condition and over 100,000 youth ages 12-17 who have been diagnosed with depression (NAMI 2021). It is always the right time to focus on your mental health as a part of your overall wellness. Here are three ways to incorporate mental wellness activities into your everyday. Breathwork There...

Setting Up for Success: Sharing Lessons Learned for Creating Sustainable Training Teams

Benchmarks’ Partnering for Excellence (PFE) is a test of change project that aims to provide Department of Social Services (DSS) agencies with a trauma-informed pathway to screen for and address trauma for child welfare-involved youth. To do this, the project focuses on cultivating a more trauma-informed community through education and trainings. In 2019, Benchmarks’ PFE began implementation in Pitt and Craven counties. Just a few years, the project shifted from the implementation phase into...

Children’s Center of Northwest North Carolina: SAP Provider Spotlight

The Benchmarks’ Standardized Assessment Project (SAP) and Surry County’s SAP Leadership Team welcome The Children’s Center of Northwest North Carolina as our newest Trauma-Intensive Comprehensive Clinical Assessment (TiCCA) provider! The Children’s Center of Northwest North Carolina (Children’s Center) provides a wide array of programs and services for children and families in the Northwestern region of North Carolina. Community Relations Coordinator, Valerie Smith, states “The Children’s...

Celebrating Kinship Caregivers

As we turn over the calendar to the new month of September, we want to take a moment to recognize National Kinship Care month. This is a time to celebrate the support of families and other adults with family-like relationships, who have stepped into the role of a caretaker when biological parents cannot do so safely. This scenario is more common than you might imagine, impacting 4% of all children across the United States, totaling more than 2.6 million children. When a grandparent, aunt,...

Suicide Prevention 2022: Creating Hope Through Action

September is Suicide Prevention month, and the theme for this year’s World Suicide Prevention campaign is “Creating Hope Through Action.” Perfectly situated only a couple of months after the United States launched the new National Suicide Prevention and Crisis Line. The new line, 988, was designed to be an easy to remember way for people to access help in times of need. While a new crisis line increases the availability of needed mental health assistance, the stigma surrounding mental health...

Clay County DSS: Standing in the Gap for Unlicensed Kinship Care Providers

Research suggests that kinship placement is best practice when youth are placed in out-of-home care. Courts must first consider a relative or kinship placement and child welfare agencies are tasked with preserving the family by allowing birth parents to coordinate care for their children with a relative or kin. Although kinship care is the best option for youth in foster care, it often is accompanied by limited supports for kinship providers. Lessons learned from our Pathways to Permanency...

Training the Adult Learner: Lessons from Benchmarks CQi Team

When many of us think about education, we may picture children sitting in a classroom and a teacher at a chalk board. But many adults take part in educational opportunities and trainings throughout their personal and professional lives. Some participate in mandatory trainings to enhance skills while others seek learning opportunities for their own personal enjoyment. No matter the reason, adults learn differently than children, and their trainings and educational opportunities should reflect...

Words Matter: Screening vs. Assessment

Frequently in the world of mental health, we find ourselves using many terms that can become confusing, even for those that work within our systems. As Benchmarks continues to expand projects across North Carolina, we find that the terms “screening” and “assessment” have become a regular part of this confusion. The interchangeable use of these terms has contributed to mix-ups surrounding the terms’ actual meanings, leading professionals to inadvertently refer children and families to...

Changing Policies: A Trauma-Informed Approach

Pathways to Permanency Project, a Vaya Health initiative created to align the work of the child welfare and behavioral health systems, continues to develop solutions to improve outcomes for child welfare involved youth and families. Child welfare stakeholders utilize monthly workgroup sessions to explore the impact and feasibility required of each potential solution to identified problems. As the project managers, Benchmarks’ staff often hear that a potential solution is to create new...

Partner Spotlight: Cleveland County DSS

In this month’s Partner Spotlight, Benchmarks would like to highlight our partners at Cleveland County DSS. Since 2016, Cleveland County has been working with Benchmarks’ Center for Quality Improvement to implement Partnering for Excellence (PFE), a project that aims to ensure child welfare involved youth are appropriately screened, assessed, and treated for trauma in a timely and effective manner. Recently, Cleveland transitioned to the sustainability phase of the project which means all...

TiCCA Train the Trainer Training

Two major components of implementation work are ensuring fidelity and sustainability. Benchmarks’ Standardized Assessment Protocol (SAP) focuses on fidelity when implementing the use of Trauma-Intensive Comprehensive Clinical Assessments (TiCCAs) through a rigorous training and certification process as well as ongoing continuous quality improvement processes. The project also focuses on the sustainability of TiCCA completion in local communities after Benchmarks is no longer providing...

Engaging Persons with Lived Experience in System Improvement Projects

We are gaining momentum in our Pathways to Permanency Project, a Vaya Health initiative to align the work of the child welfare and behavioral health systems. Workgroup sessions are taking place monthly, stakeholders’ meetings are occurring quarterly and in between we are busy ensuring the work moves ahead so that sustainable change is possible. However, as we have navigated this project it has been overwhelmingly clear that we needed and wanted to include individuals with lived experience in...

Restoring the Nervous System by Healing the Mind-Body Connection

One of the aims of Benchmarks’ Partnering for Excellence (PFE) is to educate communities about the effects of trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs); specifically, how these effects impact the youth and families that encounter the child welfare system. Through our work we know that when systems are trauma-informed, it can help shift the perspectives of professionals from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”, which ultimately informs the way we treat and address...

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