Access Services aims to develop innovative ways to provide support services to individuals with special needs in Eastern Pennsylvania.
What They Do
- Behavioral Health Rehabilitation Services
- Homeless Street Outreach
- Mental Health Wellness Center
- Mobile Crisis Support
- Peer Support Talk Line
- Respite Services
- Starting Point Program
- Supported Living
- Teen Talk Line
- Thereputic Foster Care Program
- Transition To Independence Program
A great spotlight starts with the ability to focus your audience’s attention on a specific story about your subject…that is unless your subject is Access Services. This government funded 501c3 organization facilitates over 25 programs and services (Yes, 25!) throughout Montgomery and surrounding counties. The scope of assistance they provide to the community is truly staggering; some of their most far-reaching efforts include the Mobile Crisis Program, Adult & Teen Warmlines, and a massive county-wide foster care and respite program for both children and adults.
In 1976, a group of Christian social workers in Pennsylvania grew frustrated by the dearth of services for individuals with mental health challenges and developmental disabilities. The desire to develop innovative ways to meet the needs of this underserved community was the driving force behind the formation of Access Services. In 1978, they opened their first community home in Montgomery County to accommodate individuals released from Pennhurst State Center and other large mental health facilities. By the mid 80s Access Services was operating nearly a dozen group homes in Northeastern PA and they haven’t looked back since.
Today, Access Services employees over 600 people and serves more than 4,700 individuals. We sat down with Melissa Dziedzic, Director of Respite and Host Family Recruitment to learn about some of the programs at Access Services and how they work cohesively.
“Often in crisis situations, there is a lot of family tension in the home. For example, a grandmom as the primary caregiver of a grandson/daughter who is experiencing tantrums, being defiant and it’s all targeted at grandmom. The Mobile Crisis Team has been able to go out and safety mediate and plan with the family, but also collaborate with our respite department, and facilitate the respite to provide a break in the tension to help save that family relationship.” The ability to refer in-house is a major benefit of Access Services.
“One of the misconceptions of Access Services is that we just serve individuals with intellectual disabilities and Autism, when in fact, we serve everyone in need including adults with behavioral health issues and specialized services for children, young adults, and their families,” Dziedzic explained.
Access Services is all about catering to the needs of the community and one of the most innovative aspects of this commitment has been an increased focus on the well-being and stability of teenagers. To that end, Access Services has a Teen Talk/Text Line program available from 3pm-9pm, Mon-Fri, that is answered and maintained by fellow teens with an adult supervisor. Along with teens who volunteer at the Plymouth Meeting office, TTL has clubs at Perkiomen Valley and Souderton High Schools. All teens are trained in motivational interviewing and well equipped to handle most calls. Emergency crisis calls are referred to the Access Services Mobile Crisis Team in house. “It’s very exciting work.” says Program Supervisor, Elissa Klein. “Teens are much more likely to open up and discuss their issues with other teens as opposed to adults. We are always looking for more teen volunteers who want to gain the experience helping other teens and develop skills too that they will benefit from for the rest of their lives.” For information on volunteering, email firstname.lastname@example.org
What sets Access Services apart is their one-on-one, person-centered approach. They don’t worry about the overall numbers. They focus on impacting the person in front of them, figuring out what their needs are and caring for that individual on a holistic level; mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
There are various ways to support Access Services in making a positive impact in your community. Volunteering is one great way help, but Dziedzic says one of the greatest needs is for local families to serve as hosts for their foster care and respite program. “Most of our services offered at Access refer to our respite program, so we are always looking for qualified host families.”
In addition to host families, Access Services is also seeking non-profit partners to collaborate with its Integrate For Good program. Integrate For Good is a new program designed to expand opportunities for differently abled people to contribute their time, talents, and strengths to local non-profits. For a deeper look into Integrate For Good, click here! For a complete list of the all the programs Access Services provides, visit www.accessservices.org/services and make sure to follow them @accesservices on Facebook.