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Phoenix Family Life Centers offer help with mental, behavioral issues

ROD GUAJARDO / The Natchez Democrat — Chasity Thompson, licensed clinical social worker at left; Derrick Jones, chief executive officer; and Claire Williams, licensed psychiatrist, along with four licensed counselors make up the staff at Phoenix Family Life Centers in Vidalia. The center treats patients with mental health and behavioral issues. The headquarters located in Alexandria, La., branched out to open the location in Vidalia, which will serve Concordia, Catahoula and LaSalle parishes.

VIDALIA — Chasity Thompson likes to think of herself — and the rest of the staff at the Phoenix Family Life Centers — as navigators helping people with mental health or behavioral issues along the many turns and obstacles on the road of life.

So when the opportunity to expand the company’s services from Alexandria, La., to Concordia, Catahoula and LaSalle parishes opened up, Thompson, a licensed clinical social worker, said she jumped at the chance to help any way she could.

“I’m from Jonesville, and I was already working with several recipients in this area so the idea to open a branch here just kind of grew from the need we saw in this area,” Thompson said. “So far we’ve gotten a great response from the community, which gives me peace to know that they’re willing and receptive to the services we offer.”

Derrick Jones, chief executive officer, established Phoenix Family Life Centers in 2009 in Alexandria, La., offering a variety of mental health resources to residents of Central Louisiana.

Jones said the center was a way of helping others and himself rise from their previous lives into something greater.

“People who are wanting change will wake up one day and realize that something in their lives needs change,” Jones said. “We want to offer that change as a way for them to rise up from the bad into something beautiful.”

Not long after opening, the company expanded its service to offer multi-systemic therapy, which addresses the different systems in an adolescent’s life to help treat chronic and violent youth.

In that therapy, therapists work with parents or caregivers to provide an intensive family and community-based treatment for youth with complex clinical, social and educational challenges.

Submitted photo — The logo for Phoenix Family Life Centers.

Some but not all of those children, Thompson said, have gone through the court system, have a history of out-of-home placement or exhibit high-risk behavior.

“The services we provide are very intensive and also highly customized to tailor each person, so the treatment really depends on the specific patient,” Thompson said. “You’re not going to a treat a teenager with behavioral issues the same way as a 60-year-old man with schizophrenia.”

While 80 percent of Phoenix’s patients are between the ages of 5 and 21, Thompson said the remainder of the patients are elderly and mainly deal with mental health issues.

As an example of the type and length of training offered at the center, Thompson said an average session with a youth dealing with behavioral issues can last anywhere from 9 to 12 months with four hour sessions twice a week.

The duration of the treatment is also based upon the time that Louisiana Medicaid, the state’s health coverage program for low-income residents who meet certain eligibility qualifications, allots each patient.

Phoenix Family Life Centers only accepts payments from Louisiana Medicaid, so a thorough diagnostic assessment is conducted before the company can offer treatment to a patient.

“During that assessment, we’re going through all the factors such as social environment and biological factors to help diagnose the patient for treatment,” Thompson said. “We then transmit that information to Louisiana Medicaid and see if they meet the socioeconomic guidelines for treatment.”

Once a patient goes through their assessment and is approved for treatment, their case is passed along to a licensed professional counselor.

Sarah Bird, one of four counselors at Phoenix Family Life Center in Vidalia, said the first few steps of the treatment process can be the most important.

“We first try to build a rapport and relationship with the patients and their families before doing anything,” Bird said. “After that, we sit down and create a treatment plan with goals, types of services and other things.”

Some of the behavioral issues Bird and Thompson said a patient can display range from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder or adjustment problems from something like a divorce in the family.

“There’s really such a broad spectrum of what we see and what we’re able to provide treatment for,” Thompson said. “But that’s why we really stress that we treat both mental health and behavioral issues because they can both be very serious.”

The majority of the treatment services offered for youth with behavioral issues are administered at the school or sometimes at the family’s house, Thompson said.

“They seldom come into the office for treatment just because a lot of the times the patient and their families prefer to handle it at the school,” she said. “It’s really all about providing the treatment that’s going to work best for that specific patient.”

Apart from the various sessions with the counselors, Thompson said the patients also have regular meetings with the center’s license psychiatrist, Claire Williams of Dallas.

The center had its first “doctor day” Friday where patients came in to the center and visited with Williams for the first time.

While the transition to a new location and continuing to build rapport with patients can be overwhelming, Thompson said the long hours will be worth it at the end of the day.

“It’s just all about helping people,” Thompson said. “And whatever we can do to help people, that’s what we’re going to do.”

The center in Vidalia officially opened its doors last week in the shopping center next to Weeks Warehouse Furniture.

The center’s maximum capacity is 60 patients and Thompson said they currently only have approximately 40.

Those interested in the center’s services can ask their personal doctor about getting referred or they can call 318-336-8383.

A grand opening and ribbon cutting is planned for sometime in February.