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Kids’ center expanding

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As North Carolina’s local area mental-health programs exit the business of providing direct services, the Alexander Children’s Center in Charlotte is trying to help plug the gap.

“The state does not have enough services for all the kids with serious emotional problems,” says Craig Bass, president and CEO. “We feel compelled to grow to meet that need.”

The group, formed in 1888, has expanded since 1994, when it mainly provided residential behavioral health-care services to youngsters with serious emotional or behavioral problems in its own facilities.

Now, it provides a broad range of services such as day treatment, in-home treatment and outpatient treatment.

“We want kids to be out of our facilities in the shortest amount of time possible,” Bass says. “We think kids need to be served in a way that allows them to live in their own home or in another family’s home.”

To develop a one-stop shop for troubled children, the group has grown rapidly.

It’s annual budget, for example, grew to $10 million in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, when it served 441 children, from $1.8 million in fiscal 1993, when it served 38 children.

Programs range from serving youngsters in its own residential facilities and school and in their own homes and schools to providing foster-care and adoption services.

At its 50-acre campus in off Monroe Road in southeastern Mecklenburg County, Alexander Children’s Center operates three residential-treatment cottages, a psychiatric residential-treatment facility, day-treatment and outpatient services, family cottage, group home, administrative offices and recreation complex with gym and pool.

The center also operates 10 group homes, each for roughly six youngsters, up from two homes a year ago – four in Charlotte, four in Lenoir in Caldwell County and two in Dallas in Gaston County.

Youngsters, who stay in the homes for about a year, are encouraged to attend regular schools and participate in community activities such as local sports and scouting programs.

The center, which has just opened a day-treatment facility in Lenoir and will open one in Gaston County soon, aims to keep growing outward from Mecklenburg, Caldwell and Gaston counties.

“We’re trying to provide a full array of services for children and families wherever we go,” Bass says.

The group, with 300 volunteers, covers most of its costs through fees for services, much of them paid by Medicaid and private insurance, and raises about $750,000 a year privately.

That includes a $300,000 annual fund drive that kicks off March 10.

The group also raises support for its $4 million endowment through a planned-giving program headed by Bruce Jamieson, retired CEO of IRM.

“What we’re trying to do,” says Bass, “is help our annual donors understand that we depend on their support every year and we want them to endow the center so it continues.”

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