May was National Mental Health Month, and we were happy to spend some time with Connected Communities Inc., a local organization that specializes in offering therapeutic counseling, mentorship programs, and trauma therapy to youth ages 6-17 and young adults/adults.
Throughout the pandemic, discussions surrounding mental health and self-care have become more mainstream. Employers, workers, and family members have been challenged to adjust their routines, and methods of communication, and remain safe while following a seemingly ever-changing standard of safety.
One of our clients has been in the trenches providing aid to this exact topic. Connected Communities was formed by a team of individuals that saw an opportunity to improve the lives of children and families in their neighborhoods. The organization launched in July of 2017 by a small team with big goals to introduce a different approach to aiding youth and adolescent mental health.
We recently sat down with the founders of Connected Communities to learn more about its mission and about its success.
Mission & Value Proposition
“Over the course of our careers, we witnessed so many children who needed an outlet, a trusted person to confide in who were simply left out. Counseling can be expensive, and many programs aren’t tailored to be readily available to children in poor environments.” – Tavan Mair
Seeing the need to serve children and families that institutional programs had failed, Connected Communities seeks to connect with these individuals and provide a more customized experience. They actively support the most difficult cases to fix generational systems that aren’t serving the minority demographic. Institutional programs, while necessary and supportive, can be limited by standardized structures that may not suit the needs of every client.
Connected Communities seeks to meet its communities where they are and to create a tailored approach for each client. While many organizations discharge clients after missing a couple of sessions, Connected Communities subscribes to a different philosophy. The team understood its client base dealt with overwhelming obstacles and the last thing it wanted to do was take away an outlet from struggling individuals.
“We simply don’t discharge clients very often. We serve kids and families that are juggling an array of scheduling and transportation obstacles. We see kids struggling with substance abuse, threatening family lives, and assist parents who simply want a better life for their families. Instead of discharge, we continue communication with clients who miss appointments and keep building trust. That’s how change happens.” – Megan Slaughter, Human Resources + Finance Director
Connected Communities currently maintains a short waiting list. Many institutions have a three-six month waiting list which may increase panic in clients desperate for assistance. The organization maps its hiring strategy to meet demands and prevent a long wait period for any client needing to be onboarded.
Counseling During the Pandemic
Connected Communities began assisting its home market, Frederick County, in 2017 but officially opened a location near Old Town Winchester in May of 2019. Its success after this was due to a unique value proposition just before the onset of the impending pandemic that surged in 2020.
Connected Communities, with the rest of the world, faced the difficulties of the pandemic. Many organizations transitioned to virtual-only counseling. While virtual sessions were offered, this team understood that many of their clients didn’t have access to reliable internet and technology to maintain a regular treatment plan. They also felt an opportunity to provide a haven for clients who needed an escape from their home environment. They safely continued in-person counseling throughout the pandemic to accommodate their community’s needs.
The need to maintain a sense of regularity became of utmost importance to the counselors that work with Connected Communities.
“There are families who drastically suffered during the pandemic. Families who went without income, children who couldn’t keep up with schoolwork that was virtual, and parents who were trying to explain why life was different now due to the spread of COVID.” -Krystal DeWalt, Clinical Director
Connected Communities also launched a program, Home For Now, to provide a pandemic-safe environment for students in underserved areas, helping them to stay on track with school while still having a safe outlet with their counselors. This program is still active and continues to support students who are readjusting to daily in-person school.
F&M Bank understands that any successful organization that makes this level of impact does so with the foundation of an incredible team. Tavan Mair founded the organization after many years of serving in various state and local programs aiming to help troubled youth. While he modestly attributes the organization’s success to his team, Tavan’s passion for making an impact in his community, and his tenacity to overcome adversity, is what inspired so many of his team to join his initiative.
“We’ve implemented a value-driven hiring policy. In order for us to reach the lives we are called to; we feel it’s important to hire teammates that share in our values.” –Mair
Krystal DeWalt met Mair while working together at a different organization and built a mutual bond over shared concerns where their industry was lacking in terms of helping families of various minority and income statuses. “Tavan really is one-of-a-kind. We met several years ago and discussed how we can set a better standard in the industry, or at least close more gaps.”
The organization has employees who have relocated to join the team simply because they wholeheartedly believe in its mission. Connected Communities built its team to represent the communities they serve. They found it important to have counselors that children could relate to and had shared backgrounds.
“One of my favorite moments while working here happened just a few weeks ago. We were sponsoring an event for troubled youth in a nearby town on a Saturday night. It was calling for bad weather and many other organizations backed out, but we wanted to show up. The number of Connected Communities staff that showed up and gave up their rainy Saturday night to make an impact on kids assured me that I’m in the right place. I work with a team who genuinely cares.” – Slaughter
More About the Organization
Connected Communities specializes in offering therapeutic counseling, mentorship programs, and trauma therapy to youth ages 6-17 and young adults/adults. With a footprint spanning from Winchester to Augusta County, the organization is actively growing to meet the needs of each neighborhood it expands into.
If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, or are facing a troubling time, you can contact Connected Communities at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 540-404-5985.