Local, state Youth Services Agencies receives ARPA funds | News


ENID, Okla. — Youth and Family Services of North Central Oklahoma will have a safer, more secure building, thanks to funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act.

According to a press release, the Oklahoma Legislature passed legislation that allowed capital improvements for 18 of 37 designates Youth Services Agencies (YSAs) that serve children, youth and families in communities across Oklahoma.

Allocated through Senate Bill 19, the ARPA funding is “particularly monumental” for rural communities with limited resource opportunities, the release states, and allocated dollars will assist YSAs address pandemic-identified capital improvements.

The intent of YFS’s proposal, according to the release, was to to provide a safe, secure environment for children and families with trauma, and the funds, $55,000, will be used to install a secure entry and security cameras for the parking lot and inside the building, which serves Garfield, Grant, Major and Kingfisher counties and is located at 605 W. Oxford.

Tree Kelley, executive director, said she wants to ensure everyone who receives services there and employees to feel safe at all times when they’re in the building.

“I just want us to be proactive and provide a safe environment for everyone in our community,” Kelley said.

More than 1,400 applicants submitted approximately $18 billion in requests. Peter Messiah, executive director and CEO of Oklahoma Association of Youth Services — of which YFS is a member — said in the release the process was a competitive, as indicated by the sheer number of proposals, and that the funds were “very much needed.”

“The impact these dollars will make in the lives of our children and youth served is enormous,” Messiah said in the release. “Many of our agencies have not had the opportunity to make capital improvements to their infrastructure because they focus 100% of their dollars on direct service provision.”

YSAs have long-standing relationships within their respective communities, and many YSAs have operated for 45 years, with some having been in operation for 50 years or more. A common thread they all have, the release states, is the ability to raise $3 from other funding sources for every dollar received from the state.

According to the release, YSAs utilize best practices to promote youth development and cultivate strong skills that help children and youth navigate childhood and adolescence while laying a foundation for good citizenship that will carry them throughout adulthood.

“We are so thankful to Chairmen Sen. John Haste and Rep. Kyle Hilbert and to everyone on the health and human services working group for recognizing and championing the need to shore up our infrastructure allowing us to continue critical behavioral health supports to vulnerable children, youth and families effectively and safely,” Messiah said in the release. “This couldn’t have been possible without the support and vote of local legislative leaders including, Rep. Chad Caldwell, Rep. John Pfeiffer, and Sen. Roland Pederson.”

YSA-provided programs inspire positive social behaviors for children and youth and restorative justice for the community by providing evidence-based prevention services, early intervention and effective treatment, the release states.

Services provided by YSAs are essential in addressing the impact of trauma, according to the release.

Young people exposed to risk factors like food insecurity, bullying, discrimination, violence or other negative experiences during early development are more likely to exhibit mental health and substance use issues as adults, and YSAs counteract those experiences with positive opportunity to redirect mental pathways.

“Our work impacts children and youth, but it is also predictive of the future health of our community because adults with higher Adverse Childhood Experiences scores are more likely to experience depression, suicide, and chronic health behaviors,” Messiah said in the release. “Our intent is not to focus on what’s wrong. We have read the reports and reviewed the data. We use the information to mitigate potential issues and help children, youth, families, and communities thrive right where they are both now and in the future.”

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