ver since we decided to avoid the non-for profit, government funded route of providing our service, two things have become clear:
1. This way of operating isn't the norm, and
2. This way of operating can create so many solutions!
To this day, the idea sits uncomfortably. Why charge customers, clients, and the community a price on their wellness? It's something that we as Child and Youth Care Practitioners want to be in the world for FREE, always. We came to terms with this notion when we realized the benefits that it could have for our clients, the community, and all the work that we do. For us to decipher the worth of for-profit mental health services, it took many discussions, a lot of research, and a variety of lived experience in the Child and Youth Care Field. Instead of you having to decipher whether for-profit mental health service is right for you, here are some benefits we discovered:
1. More Freedom
Before founding Limitless Youth Inc., we both worked in the helping profession for several years. Sophia worked in both Child and Youth Care alongside Developmental Service Work, while Joanne specialized in Child and Youth Care, specifically Therapeutic Programming creation. One of the stresses of working as a support professional was the limits we experienced in our ability to help people.
The want to go above and beyond for our client's care has always been in our hearts as Child and Youth Care Practitioners. When we meet a client who would benefit from having something done differently, altered towards their individual needs, or from new experiences it fuels us. In practice, it's referred to as a "client-centred approach". The issue however, is that systemically, the "client-centred approach" was only being valued in front-line work. This ended up translating to working with where our client was at and providing them individualized experiences...within the predetermined procedures, routines, practices, approaches, and programs provided by the company.
And it goes even bigger than that. Systemically, companies and organizations in the helping fields are funded to run by the government and similar sources. This can be as direct as a non-for profit depending on funding to run, offer support to those who need it, and having staff. Or it can impact bigger run organizations such as hospital based mental health programs, where they adhere to budgets allotted and distributed from the ministries, governments, and other sources. All this being said, with how high up money decisions go in our system, the overall quality of a support service isn't controlled by how much work the client or the front-line workers put in. Our system as a larger whole, is not working from a client-centred approach.
Choosing to run for-profit allows us to put more freedom, power, and control right into our clients hands. Similar to how the larger system dictates which programs get more opportunity within their budget, our clients gets to dictate how their money is used to serve them best.
When we meet and start working with clients, they have the freedom working with us to choose which pieces of a program work best for them, what works with their lifestyle, their needs, and for their family's mental, social, and emotional wellness. It also gives us as helping professionals to find new, unique, and individualized opportunities for them, with fewer barriers involved. If a client we meet seems like they would enjoy working with animals or horses, we can find ways to make that happen, if more movement and physical strategies would work best, we can explore that! For-Profit allows for the spending power to be in the client's hands in regard to mental health, which can be very helpful for their long term wellness.
2. Less Wait Lists/Wait Times
What happens when government and budget funded mental health services get a lot of intakes and need at once? Wait Lists. What happens when a for-profit company gets increased demand? Growth and expansion.
If anyone who is in Ottawa and looking for mental health services is reading this, we don't need to tell you twice how much demand there is out there for service, and how many children, youth, and families are currently on wait lists. For anyone who perhaps hasn't been a part of the system in that way, we will tell you the amount of people on wait lists for service is longer than the amount of time they'll ever be able to participate in that or any service.
This is concerning as front-line workers. We've seen the benefits for clients who receive support in a timely manner for when they need it, and we've also seen the impacts of clients who haven't received services in time. The clients who unfortunately haven't received timely service now come with added behaviors, barriers, and struggles from facing their challenges on their own for so long. These clients have so much strength in them that we've seen from them making it through life and challenges on their own, or with minimal professional supports. They do have strengths and skills that get them through each day, but learning new pro-social, healthy and appropriate ways gets more challenging the more they have to unlearn.
As Child and Youth Care Practitioners, we created our company to be for profit so that we can not only help address these wait list needs by being another support service, but the more demand there is and them more people who need service, the more we can expand, grow, hire, and build to keep serving clients in a timely manner. We also have a priority of helping address wait lists with a unique "Wait No More" Therapeutic Program to help families who are on a waiting list currently for another service and want to increase the value of that program with learning skills and attitude to help prepare children and youth for the next program. Wait lists are impacting wellness so we want to make sure our company does our part more than just existing! (that's a whole other blog post on its own though so we won't ramble on too much)
3. Unique Funding/Financial Assistance
Before we launched a as a for-profit mental health service, there was an important demographic to discuss - those who don't have the financial freedom or security to pay for our individual or group services. It doesn't make sense to promote equality and access to programs for all, while not being financially accessible, right? What's helpful about being privatized and entrepreneurial is we set out to find opportunities.
With our for-profit model it was crucial we find a way to address this. One obvious solution to help with this was using our flexible approach to help seek out funding opportunities, and to fir our services into funding that was already available for our clients. We too it upon ourselves to make connections with supports like JumpStart, Citizen Advocacy and other services who could help our clients access our services. This has been a great tool so far, but we wanted to continue the exploration to find another more direct way to support clients with financial assistance as well.
At first it was a barrier and fear for us that despite all the benefits of for-profit, we wouldn't be able to support a whole demographic who needs support. We mulled this over and kept exploring solutions, until one day a solution accidentally fell into our lap.
It was one evening when we were at a networking event to discuss our incorporation before we launched. At that point, taking about Limitless Youth was like describing a dream to people of what this business could do to help the community. And you can bet that we sold that dream with all our heart to start making the change we wanted to see in the world. At this networking event we were actually promoting another amazing organization that helps to feed and bring joy to children youth, and families (look up the Soup Sisters if you get a chance, we could honestly talk about them forever). After we shared with a group the amazing impact we see for the community with Soup Sisters, we were approached by an individual and as we were talking he learned we also founded Limitless Youth Inc. Now, this individual was not in the social service field, and was mainly corporate and tech, so not the kind of industry we'd usually mingle with. Out of the blue, he states that we would love to help make a difference in the community, and that he'd like to contribute some money to helping our clients.
We were blown away! For so many years as being employed in the helping professions, there were two types of people: people who help the community, people who don't. But this interaction opened our eyes to a whole piece of our larger community that can and want to help others. From then on we heard and noticed it everywhere. Accountants, CEO's, Corporate Lawyers, and more all want to do their part to help others and are facing a reversed barrier to us: Increased Funds with lack of opportunity within their career and their circle to help vulnerable children, youth and families.
And thus, the unique Limitless Youth Inc. sponsorship program was born! An opportunity for people in the community in all fields and financial status to contribute to those who need it! As we grow our ability to support all demographics will grow with us and we can't wait to share the benefit of this with the clients, the sponsors, and the community!
4. Involvement in a New and Accessible Community
When we first entered the world of business, we were fascinated with the efficiency that everyone had within their networks. Here's a breakdown of the difference we saw between working in the system, and alongside entrepreneurs:
Scenario: Finding a new sports based program for a client
In the system: Which client again? Okay I'll have to look at his file first to see what services he's accessed in the past, then call his case worker to see if she can get this approved. A week after that we can pass the request onto his psychiatrist and after she assess the request with his treatment, she'll put in a referral to an organization that helps find active activity programs for youth. Once they receive the referral they'll follow up with the family and do their own intake and assessment, but first they'll need his psycho assessments. Once they complete that they'll put him on lists for different active programs, and when they have spaces available they'll call the family.
Working with Entrepreneurs: Oh yeah? Does the client have any physical disabilities? I know a guy who owns the sports arena on fifth, and he actually runs groups like that every Thursday! He doesn't usually have one on one time but he's usually there Friday mornings as well, he'd probably give you a brand-new estimate to do what you're looking for. Give me your card, I'll email him now and pass the request along!
Can you spot the five differences? The efficiency of the networking based entrepreneurial community has so much power to not only make positive change happen quicker, but to create brand-new opportunities to existing client challenges! It took awhile for us to understand this community, but once we grasped the idea we knew it would create even more opportunities for our clients. By utilizing a for-profit model to mental health services, we're able to form and offer a whole new community experience and a new handful of opportunities to our clients, and it makes such a difference in how we can support them!
5. Feeling Valued and Equal
"The Customer is Always Right!" is a saying many know by now. It's usually used in sales or customer service departments, but it's also applicable to companies, organizations, and corporations. At the root of this popular statement is essentially to treat the people who are choosing to spend money within your company with kindness, respect, and value because they can technically choose to go spend that money somewhere else if they don't like how we treat them.
The same applies when you bring the for-profit model to mental health services. When you have clients (aka customers) who could use their hard-earned money serve their families in other ways, it creates a giant piece of "TREAT THEM RIGHT" right there in the business model.
As Child and Youth care Practitioners, we have always valued positivity, kindness, respect, equality, value, and collaboration with our clients and their families. And now as a for-profit there is never a chance that that value falls through the cracks as we grow and expand. When you as a client use a for-profit service, you can feel assured and confident that your needs and your strengths you bring will be valued as a part of the team, because we know that you know your child best!