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Joshua D. Smith

Providing Mental Health Services to Adults in East Idaho

Published in the September 2022 Issue Published online: Sep 03, 2022 Articles, Business, East Idaho Business, East Idaho Health, Health & Wellness, Lifestyle
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BY JDSA STAFF

THERE WAS A TIME when nearly anyone with a psychiatric disorder in America was confined to a state institution. In Idaho, these institutions included State Hospital South in Blackfoot and State Hospital North in Orofino. Most people with significant developmental or intellectual impairments were confined to similar institutions, like the Idaho State School and Hospital in Nampa.

Steve Hansen was 19 years old when he started his career at Idaho’s first Child Development Center in Idaho Falls in 1970. According to Hansen, this was “the beginning of the de-institutionalization movement in Idaho.”

“I remember multiple busloads of individuals being transported every week from Idaho’s institutions to eastern Idaho,” he said. “Most were being transported to facilities that were then referred to as private shelter homes.”

Some of these homes were large, housing more than 50 individuals. Some homes were in the community, and some were in more rural areas. Over the years, many formerly institutionalized individuals with developmental or intellectual impairment were able to receive services from the Child Development Center, Development Workshop and a handful of private developmental disability centers like the Joshua D. Smith Foundation.

In spite of this, those with mental health disorders had no programs to turn to for help.

“Other than the medication oversight and crisis interventions offered by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, not much was offered,” Hansen said. “We were not aware of any private programs serving those with chronic and persistent mental health conditions.”

As a result of this void, in 1991, Hansen, along with Dennis Smith and Kelly Keele, established Joshua D. Smith and Associates (JDSA). The new agency’s first programs were located in Idaho Falls and Arco to meet the needs of a large group of seriously underserved individuals residing in numerous area shelter homes. Later they would add a program in Blackfoot and another in Pocatello.

According to Corene Peterson, JDSA’s first Idaho Falls program manager, when she started with JDSA in 1991 most of the individuals served lived in shelter homes, which were located in the outlying areas. “The people I met there told me their lives revolved around smoking, drinking coffee, watching television and walking to the store if they had money to spend,” she said. “Many were overmedicated, so they didn’t cause any problems. When we started, individuals told me they felt like they had a life again. They could come to the program every day where they would attend groups and learn how to recognize and manage their symptoms, understand their medication, socialize with other people, learn some basic living skills and talk with staff.”

To this day, Peterson continues to work as a part time therapist at JDSA where she can witness the progress of program participants.

While many were finally benefiting from JDSA’s Partial Care programs, the agency was limited to serving individuals strictly within the four walls of the clinic. It was obvious to JDSA that the best approach would be to offer an array of services, both in the clinic as well as out in the community, as more and more individuals were living more independently in their own homes or apartments.

To JDSA, it was clear that a broader community-based model was needed. JDSA co-founder Kelly Keele remembers when the shift was made.

“From this start, we were able to work with Idaho State Legislators and the Department of Health and Welfare to successfully add a new array of core services, and in 1996, individuals with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI) could receive medication management, psychotherapy, day treatment, psychiatric rehabilitation and case management,” she said. “Through this new community-based model, individuals with SPMI are now able to live independently and often hold jobs in their communities.”

Numerous other private mental health agencies cropped up throughout the state as a result of the creation of these new programs.

More than 31 years later, JDSA continues to serve the SPMI population, as well as other individuals and families in the community with mental health needs. JDSA is accredited by most of the major insurance carriers, and continues to offer services on a sliding fee schedule based on ability to pay for those without insurance. Cherla Randall, who works as a team leader at JDSA appreciates the wide reach of JDSA.

“This company also serves veterans, and that is huge to me as I am a veteran myself,” she said. “JDSA supports me and my dream to continue to serve my country. We all help one another out and we never give up on anyone!”

Brenda Emery, 21-year employee and the current program manager at JDSA, enjoys being a part of such an impactful organization.

“Employees of Joshua D. Smith and Associates believe that what they do truly makes a difference in our community,” she said. “We care deeply about those we serve, and we’re constantly looking for unmet needs and better ways to meet those needs in eastern Idaho.”

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