By Cici Kelly, CEO, The Bougainvilla House
When another healthcare organization, or another member, thinks of The Bougainvilla House what do you want them to visualize?
The Bougainvilla House is not your typical outpatient facility. When people come for a tour or for the first time they always say “wow this is not what I was expecting.” I always hesitate before saying “what were you expecting?” Our property is 5 houses that we have converted into administrative and clinical space. We are nestled in a neighborhood surrounded by lush landscaping. People are not aware that we are a therapy center; they think someone lives here, which we love. We decorate the property for every major holiday and it makes it feel very homey.
We want our clients to feel like they are at home when they come to see us. We deal with the most vulnerable population – our children and teens – and I believe that when kids feel relaxed and safe, they are more apt to open up and talk about things that are bothering them. We pride ourselves on doing right by the community. Our goal is not to be a fit for everyone but to focus on our niche areas and provide quality of care for those we do serve.
How has growth affected The Bougainvilla House over the years?
As a center that works with the adolescent and teen population, our growth has been slow and steady. It’s sad to say but until the shooting at Stoneman Douglas, parents really didn’t want to acknowledge that their child might be struggling with a mental health issue. Unfortunately the stigma that surrounds mental health and substance use is still very alive today. Over the past 3 years we have spent a great deal of time in schools educating students, teachers, parents and staff on issues in our community around mental health and substance use disorders. In Broward County, 1 in 5 children and adolescents have a diagnosable mental, emotional, or behavioral problem. Our mission is to try to reach and help educate as many people in our community as we can. By going into the school we reach a lot of kids at one time who then have at least a little knowledge and at least know where to go if they or someone they know needs help. We always post a slide with the phone numbers of all the relevant hotlines and tell the kids to take out their phones and take a picture of it so they have it with them at all times.
Are there any recent new programs or new innovative services you would like to highlight?
We are strictly an outpatient facility. We do not want to be everything for everybody. We want to focus on what we do best which is adolescents and teens. We have intensive outpatient services for substance use and outpatient services for mental health. We are the only facility in Broward County that offers intensive outpatient groups for substance use that also offers individual and family therapy as part of their program. We have created a beautiful sensory room in one of our clinical buildings. The kids love to do sessions in this room. They love the bubble tubes and the shooting starts that go across the ceiling and walls. If a family session gets heated we try to move the session to the sensory room to help calm everyone down. One of our therapists just received her certification in EMDR therapy as we are seeing a rise in kids with trauma related issues.
What is the most common challenge you find when speaking with executives at other community-based behavioral health care organizations?
The most common denominator among organizations is battling with insurance companies for approval of services. It is very scary to me that my team is forced to speak with peer review people at the carriers who have spent a total of 2 minutes hearing about my client and that person is going to determine if my client is allowed services. As an organization we need to do more about stopping this type of behavior. I attend a lot of events in our community and I am usually the only CEO who is at the event. Most companies send their outreach people but as a CEO, I think it is really important to be out in the community speaking with the people we serve and hearing their comments about needs and services available. It helps me to look at my organization and see if I am doing all I can for the population I serve.
How does your organization define successful outcomes?
Like all agencies, Bougainvilla House responds and tracks outcomes required by accrediting agencies. However, I believe that kids leaving our program with their goals accomplished and their self-esteem restored are really the testament of our outcomes. Families who refer us to their friends for services speak volumes of the work we do. We have a hard time getting our clients to want to discharge which is funny in that most come in kicking and screaming that they are fine and don’t need to see a therapist. We focus on teaching our clients the coping skills and applying the skills that are taught in their everyday life. I always get a kick out of watching a client use the skills we teach in a family session and rendering their parent speechless. That indicates what we do here works!
Are there any awards or recognitions received by Bougainvilla House that you would like to share with readers?
Awards no, but plenty of thank you letters from schools and certificates recognizing us for helping to educate them on mental health and substance use. We also have placques from the local teams we sponsor for soccer and baseball.
What else is important to know about Bougainvilla House?
We want everyone to know that if they don’t know where to turn for help we would love for them to call us and we will do everything we can to assist them in finding someone or someplace that can help.