Rep. Sterling: Partners in caring

Rep. Danny Sterling

I recently had the opportunity to meet and converse with two individuals who are involved with supporting and implanting the goals of a program in the communities of Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties. The program is called “Partners in Caring” (PIC). These two individuals are Joani Webster, the PIC director, and Mystie Smith, a volunteer at the Pottawatomie County Child Welfare Collaborative. Both of these ladies are passionate advocates for the youth that this program serves.

PIC is a school-based, integrated health care initiative, providing a wide range of direct care and care coordination services in rural underserved communities in Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties. PIC utilizes an evidence-based model, CDC recommended strategy, known as Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community (WSCC). PIC is comprised of 14 main partners and includes a wide range of health care professionals, mental health professionals, parent educators, social workers and care coordinators that serve participating schools.

Since 2014, PIC partners have been operating under a mixed method evaluation plan, which includes both process and program outcome measures. The Pottawatomie County Child Welfare Collaborative Executive Committee acts as the steering board over the PIC Initiative. As a part of the steering function, the committee oversees the annual PIC evaluation reporting to monitor program outcomes and to assess progress, barriers and any possible changes needed that effect outcome areas. The data collected and tracked as a part of the current PIC evaluation is both quantitative and qualitative and includes a mix of primary and secondary data. Open and closed surveys, research/reporting and existing data collection are all methods utilized during evaluation. The process data collected includes annual surveys of partners, stakeholders and individuals served. The program outcome data collected includes immunization rates, Client Assessment Record Scores (CARS), motor skill assessments, a variety of testing scores, a wide range of health and mental health screening scores, follow-up services based on screening results and number of overall referrals.

PIC has been successfully achieving process and program areas around improved health and well-being outcomes since the program began in 2014. To date, evaluation data is demonstrating PIC effectiveness through improvements in the following areas: (1) increase in south Pottawatomie County schools immunization rates by 19%, (2) improved early screenings and detection rates, (3) improved child well-being indicators by over 10%, (4) high satisfaction rates of stakeholders, (5) above average follow-up care rates, based on screenings and (6) strengthened motor skills through occupational therapy interventions for 60 students. In 2020, a total of 1,173 students were referred through the PIC Inner School Referral System.

The PIC evaluation results are a powerful demonstration that the community is seeing a high return on the investment required to implement this model. In order to further study PIC outcomes, PIC investors have requested further study of the impact of PIC. In response to the request, partners sought the assistance of the University of Oklahoma Center on Child Abuse and Neglect for evaluation planning supports in the spring of 2020. Just as planning started, COVID-19 swept the nation and all non-essential activities had to cease. A framework for the evaluation expansion plan has been developed, despite the setbacks of a global pandemic.

This program has provided essential services to disenfranchised students across Pottawatomie County, and I hope to see PIC continue their important work to aid these students!