This profile of Places for People appeared in the St. Louis American in March 2013.
“Places for People is a community-based specialty behavioral health care organization,” said Joe Yancey, executive director of Places for People. “We provide specialized behavioral health care treatment to those in our community who are most in need.”
Over 60 percent of those served at Places for People are African-American, according to Yancey, who has more than 30 years of experience working in the mental health field, including 15 years with the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
On Friday, April 26, Places for People will receive the 2013 Health Advocacy Organization of the Year award at the St. Louis American Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Health Care Awards Luncheon at the Frontenac Hilton.
The reception will begin at 11 a.m., and the program will start at noon. The private, nonprofit organization has served the St. Louis community since 1972 and is located at 4130 Lindell Blvd.
Yancey says people most in need of services are those diagnosed with HIV who have co-occurring addiction disorders and serious mental illness with complex treatment needs. Others include the homeless, refugees of torture, and at-risk youth with behavioral issues caught up in the criminal and juvenile justice system.
Yancey believes the stigma surrounding these types of disorders are discouraging to people who are too ill and mistrustful to seek help.
This was the case with Robert Wallace, a Places for People volunteer, who says he was never one to talk openly about his problems. He first came to Places for People nearly eight years ago after a referral from his physician, who encouraged him to seek counseling.
“I was in a pretty bad place when I came here,” Wallace said. “Right now, I feel as though I’m in a better place. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know what my purpose is.”
His purpose, he says, is helping people who are in similar situations.
“I don’t have the money to donate to Places for People, but I donate my time as much as I can,” Wallace said.
Sandra M. Moore, president of Urban Strategies, is personally and professionally involved with Places for People.
“My oldest child has some issues that really needed significant support beyond what his father and I could give,” Moore said. “And we just found the program as a place that really seemed to focus on taking people with mental, emotional, trauma or social adjustment issues and helping them get on a pathway of independence.”
Moore says her son, who can’t be named due to patient privacy concerns, has enjoyed having a team of counselors to assist with employment and educational pursuits as well as financial planning and budgeting.
“It’s helped him to plan, set goals and to move toward those goals,” Moore said.
Urban Strategies’ mission is to empower residents in distressed urban neighborhoods to lead healthy, prosperous lives in thriving, self-sustaining communities.
“We work in communities that are experiencing some level of distress,” Moore said. “They have vulnerable households in them with sometimes every member of the family needing some level of support. Places for People has come into our communities. They meet people where they are.”
The large majority of residents within these communities, Moore says, are people of color who are reluctant to seek help for mental, emotional and social issues.
“We have our eyes and ears out there in the community,” Yancey said. “Oftentimes we will get phone calls from the community that say, ‘I’ve seen this guy and seems like he could really use some help.’”
From there, Places for People attempts to establish functional relationships with individuals to assess their needs.
“We ask, ‘Do you need a place to live, food, clothes?’” Yancey said. “Over the course of time, through that relationship, we start to engage people in services for their mental health and/or addiction disorders.”
Places for People offers individual, group and family therapy sessions that utilize evidence-based practices. The staff of more than 200 consists of social workers, substance abuse counselors, registered nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists and vocational specialists. Places for People is licensed and certified by the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
“In our community, as in most communities, the need for these kinds of services far outweigh what is available,” Yancey said. “Our impact on the St. Louis community is being able to address the needs of those that will not voluntarily show up on their own for services.”