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The first time Isaac Alewine set foot on Cresthaven Farms, he was a volunteer from a local group home. Isaac quickly fell in love with being outside and around the animals.

As Isaac volunteered, he got to know Sarah Torres, a fourth generation dairy farmer and owner of Cresthaven Farms, a 160-cow Dairy Farm in Grayson County. “Isaac started by helping in the milking parlor, and I really enjoyed having him here,” she says.

Sarah says Cresthaven has the same struggle many family farms do, the to-do list is longer than the day. Sarah reached out to the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) looking for part-time help. DARS sent the referral to Mount Rogers’ Supported Employment program, and there was a match. As Sarah was searching for an employee, Isaac was searching for a job. Sarah says, “I felt like it would be mutually beneficial. Help a person who needs it, and help us at the same time. Several months later I get a call from Mount Rogers that they have someone and I found out it was Isaac.”

Supported Employment, offered through Mount Rogers’ Employment Support Services program, connects individuals with disabilities with community employers. Mount Rogers Job Coaches support the individual as they learn the job and follow along as needed. The level of support can vary depending on the individual’s needs and can reduce as they become more proficient.

Isaac’s favorite coworkers are the hundreds of black-and-white Holstein cattle. The animals are well cared for, and are very tame as a result of being handled every day in the milking operation. “They’re funny. They’re just big grass puppies,” Isaac says with a grin.

Each work day, Isaac beds the baby calves then launches into any task Sarah gives him. Some days that means mucking the barn. Other days he winterizes the milking parlor to get ready for colder weather. No matter the task, Isaac is happy to be at Cresthaven. He says, “It’s peaceful. Everyone is nice. You can get your work done and not feel stressed out.”

For Isaac, much of the credit for that positive work environment goes to Sarah. He says, “She’s great. She’s always so understanding and happy. She’s always checking up on me. She’s just great.”

Sarah says it’s easy to root for someone with so much potential, “Isaac is capable of more than he even realizes. I hope working here helps him realize that.”

Isaac would encourage anyone interested in entering the workforce to take a look at Supported Employment. He says, “You’ve got to want to work, and they’ll help you.”

It’s a win for Isaac. It’s a win for Sarah. It’s a win for the grass puppies.

Diane Charapich is a Family Support Partner Coach at Mount Roger Community Services. Before coming to work with Mount Rogers, Charapich’s son received services through the agency.

When Charapich’s son was in Kindergarten, his teacher recommended an evaluation for ADHD. After receiving the results of that evaluation from a different provider, Charapich’s son started treatment and medication for ADHD. Instead of helping, his behaviors seemed to get worse. Charapich says, “We struggled. I kept telling them something is just not right. He was very angry, impulsive, and the meds just don’t seem to be working.”

Charapich and her son continued to struggle for the next six years. He had two hospitalizations, and Charapich was forced to consider residential treatment. “It was very hard. I was constantly battling with myself with how have I failed my child as a parent? What have I done wrong.”

After her son’s second hospitalization, Charapich and her son’s treatment team at Mount Rogers worked together to find another answer. Six years after the initial ADHD diagnosis, a new Psychological Evaluation revealed the answer they had been looking for. Charapich says, “The day that the Psychological Evaluation came back, my Case Manager asked if she could come out and talk to me at work. She came out and talked to me and said, ‘Dr. Qualls says he is autistic. He fell on the spectrum.’ As a mother, I was relieved. I always knew their was a piece of the puzzle missing.”

With the new autism diagnosis, treatment changed. So did life in the Charapich household. There were no more hospitalizations, no more thoughts of residential treatment. “It made me look at my child differently, in a way of understanding him better,” she says. Now, Charapich’s son is 19-years-old and doing as well as he ever has. Meanwhile, Charapich is working as a Family Sypport Partner Coach for Mount Rogers. Here, she helps families who are experiencing the same thing she was seven years ago.

Mount Rogers Community Services is pleased to be a 2020 recipient of the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Expansion Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This expansion grant awards Mount Rogers Community Services a total of $4 million across fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to become a CCBHC.

Mount Rogers Community Services is the only new recipient of the grant in Virginia for this fiscal year. Currently, there are only 113 CCBHCs across the entire United States. SAMHSA defines a CCBHC’s responsibilities as, “Providing nine types of services, with an emphasis on the provision of 24-hour crisis care, utilization of evidence-based practices, care coordination and integration with physical health care. The demonstration program represents the largest investment in mental health and addiction care in generations.”

To become a CCBHC, Mount Rogers Community Services will utilize the grant award to partially or fully create 29 new positions. These positions will improve quality of and access to services across our catchment area. Sandy Bryant, Mount Rogers Community Services Executive Director, says, “We’re very excited this grant will allow us to expand Crisis Care services across our catchment area, provide Registered Nurse Care Coordination to serve individuals with medical and behavioral health issues, and expand Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) team services.”

Crisis Care services will be expanded by opening Crisis Care Centers across the catchment area and establishing Mobile Crisis teams to serve individuals wherever they may be. Crisis Care Centers and Mobile Crisis teams allow Mount Rogers Community Services to treat individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis in less restrictive settings.

PACT teams work with individuals who have a serious mental illness with the goal of reducing the need for hospitalization. This grant will allow Mount Rogers Community Services to expand this nationally recognized and evidence-based model across our catchment area.

Care Coordination will serve individuals by linking their socioeconomic, medical, and behavioral health needs with resources both within and outside of Mount Rogers Community Services. Mount Rogers Community Services will utilize Registered Nurses to provide Care Coordination services.

Laura Davis, CCBHC Project Director for Mount Rogers Community Services, says this is a clear win for individuals in Southwest Virginia. “It’s a national model that has already demonstrated success in rural and urban areas. This levels the playing field, and our service area is going to have resources that few places around the country have,” Davis says.

Mount Rogers Community Services provides mental health, substance use, and developmental disability services to the people of Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, and Wythe Counties as well as the City of Galax.

Interviews can be made available upon request. Contact Logan Nester, Director of Communications and Public Relations, at 276-920-4015 or for additional information.