Catalyst Grant Update: Personal Counseling Services Implements Psychological Testing Library to Help Families
The scene was becoming all too common for Doug Drake, the President and CEO at Personal Counseling Services (PCS) in Clarksville.
Each month, dozens of concerned parents or guardians would flock to the organization, with hopes they could help improve their children’s behavior in school. In many instances, teachers and counselors suggested getting the student tested for possible placement into special education classes, recommending PCS as a potential resource.
But the testing process was expensive.
Assessments range between $300 – $2,500, with some students needing multiple rounds and versions. Following testing, psychologists could spend up to a week writing comprehensive summaries, a task in which they, too, will be compensated.
All-in, the psychological testing can cost families thousands of dollars – something most insurance companies reimburse at a very low rate – forcing out-of-pocket costs to skyrocket.
After re-living similar scenarios with marginalized families from across the region, Doug decided his organization needed to do something about it.
“There are people out here that need this service – and there are many reasons why they might need it,” Doug says. “If a child is young and behaving in a manner that is concerning to those who interact most with that child, then psychological testing should be done. And if it isn’t, the end results for both that child and the community could be catastrophic.”
Filling a Community Need
Mental health issues continue to be a concern in Clark and Floyd counties. According to the 2021 Priorities for Progress: Assets and Aspirations in Southern Indiana Report, the two highest priorities for mental health include concerns about “affordable health insurance that includes mental healthcare” and “affordable mental health services”.
“The two-county region needs to support families with easily accessible mental health services delivered through school-based programs that can detect and respond to needs as they emerge,” the report states.
Understanding the need, Doug decided to take matters into his own hands and began a conversation with the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana (CFSI), specifically asking questions about its new Catalyst Grant program – which has since been rebranded into the Capacity Building Grants Program.
The Catalyst Grant program awarded grants to organizations with projects aimed at promoting community, health, and well-being, as well as improving our area’s quality of place for everyone in the region.
“Once the opportunity for a Catalyst Grant came around, that opened a door and I remember calling the Foundation to make sure this idea we had was a fit,” Doug says. “Once they said it was, our gameplan was to get a library of psychological tests – we needed $15,000 to get started – and just replace the test as it was used. We never knew what tests the psychologists were going to administer, so we wanted to make sure we had whatever was needed to get help get each child diagnosed.”
In 2014, Personal Counseling Services was awarded $15,000 to create their psychological testing library, complete with various instruments and assessments that would last the organization roughly 8 to 10 years. It was exactly what Doug needed to begin his vision of offering free psychological tests for area children.
“That initial gift was the gift that keeps on giving, even to this day. We continue to replenish collections of testing materials as they become depleted,” Doug says. “But we needed that support up front because the initial cost is huge, and the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana was there for us.”
Success Seven Years in the Making
Dr. Meg Hornsby has been working with Personal Counseling Services for 12 years. She was introduced to PCS by her supervisor, who happened to be working with the organization. Once Dr. Hornsby decided to do her post-op studies there, she quickly fell in love with the mission of the group.
“Once I saw that PCS served families that had fallen through the cracks, such as not qualifying for Medicaid but unable to afford health insurance, I realized there was this big gap for families with children who had nowhere else to turn,” Dr. Hornsby says. “After our conversations with CFSI, we were able to ask for a wide variety of specific tests that measure cognitive abilities, academic abilities, trauma inventory, psychomotor abilities, and more. I credit that success to the Community Foundation because there was no way we could have offered that as a nonprofit.”
Dr. Hornsby has also used her time at PCS to involve her alma mater, Spalding University, by bringing in and supervising a team of student interns to help with case loads. This, in turn, helped out the patient’s family, as any testing involving an intern didn’t cost the families a dime.
While the COVID-19 pandemic shut down services for nearly two years, Personal Counseling Services has still seen more than 60 students (roughly 1 per month) complete the program. Many of those students will go on to graduate high school and experience a normal adult life.
“I remember Vince Klein from New Albany/Floyd County Schools called me up about this one child. He said, ‘Everyone has given up on this child, but I think there is hope there.’” Doug recalls. “I knew we could help, so we took this child into our residential treatment program and saw them for almost two years. They’ve since graduated from a local college and hold a job in a great profession. It’s an awesome story.”
While its success can obviously be attributed to months, sometimes years, of hard work by both the student and the therapist, Doug knows none of it would be possible without the support of the initial Catalyst Grant from the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana.
“Superficially, the grant from CFSI helped us establish a psychological testing library. But much greater than that, having these tests allowed us to be the instrument of change that makes a positive impact on the lives of our children and youth in this region,” Doug says. “To me, that’s the important part. Helping them.”
For more than 30 years, CFSI has been a partner and resource to nonprofits across Kentuckiana. And thanks to our numerous grant programs that are so valuable to local organizations, our communities can continue to feel the impact of these grants for generations.