Ozark Center opens apartments for homeless youth

Friday, March 08, 2013 - Ozark Center opens apartments for homeless youth


JOPLIN, Mo.—Ozark Center officially opened a second Pre-Adult Transitional Housing (PATH) apartment complex, a new residence to homeless youth in need of long-term housing, as well as assistance developing essential life skills. After seven months of construction, the completion of PATH II doubles the number of young adults Ozark Center can house.

The PATH project primarily reaches youth who aged out of the foster system, but will also aid young adults in the custody of the Division of Youth Services, homeless youth, or those whose home life is harmful. Each year, approximately 25,000 youth grow too old for services available from the nation’s foster system, after which an estimated 25 percent of them become homeless. Consequently, experts further estimate 66 percent of homeless youth report problems with substance abuse or mental illness. Joplin is not immune to this problem. In May 2010, Ozark Center’s PATH program opened apartments for homeless youth. One year later, Joplin lost nearly 7,000 residences during the devastating tornado, further decreasing the availability of homes.

“The majority of us will never know the fear of being homeless. We aren’t aware of what it means to age out of the foster care system or live in a home environment that is not healthy. Most of us have never grappled with mental illness or substance abuse,” said Phil Willcoxon, Ozark Center Chief Executive Officer. “Throughout our daily lives, most of us do not encounter these issues, but for the young adults participating in the PATH program, these issues are very real. Through PATH and the services it will make available, we will continue to change the lives of these young adults in a very meaningful way.”

Supported by the Missouri Department of Mental Health, these apartments will aid local youth in developing independent living skills, interpersonal skills, and mental health services. PATH II is intended for young people ages 17 to 22 who have been diagnosed as having a mental health disorder. Services at PATH include basic life-skill building; personal finance assistance; housekeeping; interpersonal-skill building; decision making and stress management; GED preparation, postsecondary training, or vocational education; assistance with job preparation, career counseling, and job placement; prevention and treatment of substance abuse; and mental healthcare.

Completion of PATH II has allowed Ozark Center to increase its number of housing units for young adults from 8 to 16. In addition to fully furnished apartments, the complex features a finished basement to be used for psychosocial rehabilitation groups, recreational purposes, and a tornado shelter.

“At its most fundamental level, this facility will provide the young adults participating in our program with four walls and a roof over their heads—some of life’s basic needs they have not always had met,” said Vicky Mieseler, Ozark Center Vice President of Clinical Services. “But our hope is to impact these young people on a deeper level, providing them with more than just an address. Our goal is to give them stability, support, and guidance—all the elements that will help ensure each of them a brighter future.”

About Freeman Health System

Based in Joplin, Mo., and proudly recognized as the Best Hospital in southwest Missouri—as well as ranked #4 in the state—by US News & World Report, Freeman Health System provides comprehensive healthcare and behavioral health services, including cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurosciences, orthopaedics, and women’s services. The area’s only locally owned, not-for-profit health system, Freeman has more than 300 physicians representing 60 specialties serving southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma, and northwest Arkansas. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com or facebook.com/freemanhealthsystem, or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at twitter.com/freemanceo.

About Ozark Center

An integral component of Freeman Health System based in Joplin, Missouri, Ozark Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services to children, adults, and families in an area that includes more than 450,000 residents from Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Ozark Center continually looks for innovative ways to address the mental health needs of the community and promote awareness of mental illness in an effort to eliminate the discrimination associated with it. For more information, visit ozarkcenter.com or call 417.347.7600.