Great News for Richmond Families – UMFS Receives $800,000 Grant To Help Parents of Children With Mental Illnesses Access Help Easier

UMFS annual_giving editAt a time when children with mental illness is top of mind in the Commonwealth of Virginia, United Methodist Family Services (UMFS) has received a $805,554 grant to help bring systems of care for these children to a national scale in Virginia.

Who Is United Methodist Family Services (UMFS)?

United Methodist Family Services is a nonprofit social service agency, established in 1900, that helps children and families throughout Virginia.  Services include residential treatment, treatment foster care, school-based services, Project LIFE and adoption services. Visit or call 804-353-4461 to learn more.

Details About The Grant:

The grant was awarded from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) and is part of a larger statewide System of Care Expansion Implementation Grant, which was made available by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.umfs logo

Grant monies will allow UMFS to come up with systems to cut the red-tape and reduce the amount of paperwork and other regulations that parents must endure in order to find the best services for children with mental disabilities ages 12-18. The Systems of Care program will help to provide better access to formal and informal resources, from parenting classes, to psychiatric and educational resources.

“We are hyper-focused on providing safety nets for youth with mental disabilities, but also creating ways for their parents to better access care and navigate the system for help,” said Nancy Toscano, Associate VP, Strategy and Programs of United Methodist Family Services. “This can only be done through a team effort and with these organizations on our side, I know we can be successful.”

UMFS will manage all funds and track success for programs in the city of Richmond, Colonial Heights, Chesterfield, Henrico, and Goochland. Councilman Parker Angelasto of Richmond City’s 5th District supported UMFS’ grant application.

“This grant will assist in placing a greater emphasis on building natural supports and the use of parent to parent coaching in a regional collaborative system can and should transcend jurisdictional boundaries that have hindered some services to local residents,” said Councilman Agelasto.

UMFS will be working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the University of Maryland to build the System of Care support through community education, clinical coaching and training parents of children that have received services for peer parent support. UMFS will have a project coordinator and a project manager on staff along with peer navigators who will work with families by guiding them to available community resources.

One Richmond Mom’s Story – How This Grant Can Help Local Parents:

Sarah Hoyle adopted Anna from Russia when she was 27 months old.  Always a quirky child and honor roll  student through middle school, she began having lots of behavior trouble her freshman year of high school.  Sarah took her daughter to several doctors, all making different diagnoses from autism, to bi-polar to major depressive disorder to schizophrenia.  At one point Anna was on eight different medicines- each causing different side effects that she would then get another prescription to treat.  Sarah even encountered a situation when Tucker’s Hospital had no beds and sent the family home with their daughter who was both suicidal and homicidal. Sarah and her husband had to stay up all night for Anna’s safety and their own.

Sarah had to navigate the mental health system all on her own and would spend full days making phone calls and trying to get information on how her daughter could get help (affordable help at that).  She says “Finding what you need is like a scavenger hunt. The helpful information I did learn was in conversations with others over the years.”  Through conversations she learned about the state’s DD Waiver (Developmentally Delayed) which helps provide services for people who are developmentally delayed and there is typically a 10 year waiting list according to Sarah.

Anna is now 22 years old.  She is living in a Gateway Home in S. Chesterfield (and has been for the past year). She still comes home to visit for the holidays.   They found out around her 18th birthday that Anna is PDD-NOS (Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) one of three autism spectrum disorders.

Sarah currently serves on the board of UMFS and will spearhead the steering committee for the Parent to Peer program, where parents who have been through various situations with their children will help other parents navigate the system in efforts to streamline getting treatment.

For more information about the resources UMFS offers, visit or call 804-353-4461 to learn more.