Kim Mercer retired this year as a social worker in Winfield public schools after more than 40 years with the district. But it wasn’t long before she was working again to help struggling families.
Mercer recently was hired by the Community Health Center in Cowley County through a federal substance abuse disorder grant. She actually works at Four County Mental Health because that agency is credentialed to use the grant.
The health center received a grant of $247,500 the first year and $100,000 for every subsequent year of the grant, part of a larger
Mercer’s position is integrated health specialist. The position is new to the community, she said.
“It’s community centered, networking and serving a broad section of the community, including CHCCC clients, Drug Court and youths in and out of school,” Mercer said. “It’s a real collaborative position.”
Mercer had served on the board of directors for the health center before starting her employment with the organization.
She is working out of spaces in the Cowley County Courthouse Annex and Eagle Nest, Inc.
Many of Mercer’s tasks will be similar to those she performed in schools: working with youth and families, transporting people to appointments, making referrals and networking with community agencies.
One part of the grant included money to purchase a van. “The transportation part is huge,” Mercer said, because many people have little or no access to transportation.
The grant will also fund three therapists to work 20 hours a week each with students in the public schools. The school district is in the process of getting the program set up, Mercer said.
One of Mercer’s first cooperative efforts was Saturday: The annual Stuff the Bus school supply drive.
The event was sponsored by Walmart, Eagle Nest, Inc., USD 465 and the Community Health Center in Cowley County.
“People brought many donations of school supplies,” Mercer said.
They also purchased many gift cards, $5 and up, that could be spent on needed items.
To get the cashiers geared up for the event, whichever cashier sold the most gift cards got a $20 card for Sonic.
Walmart will be taking supplies and gift cards for the collection through this week, Mercer said, but they will accept supplies and cards at any time of the year and get them to the schools where they are needed.
Mercer’s work also directly relates to what she was doing in the public schools — opening accounts for items kids need but cannot but can’t afford.
Accounts have been established through Eagle Nest Inc., the “Eaglet” account, and at the Community Health Center, the “Just for Kids” account.
Funds from these accounts will provide resources for youth (specialty school supplies, gas cards for trips to health care providers, shoes, clothes, etc.).
If financial resources available to USD 465 counselors and social workers become exhausted, they can request funds from these accounts, Mercer said.
While they are a big corporation, Walmart has shown to be committed to the community, Mercer said.
“Walmart has made a significant donation to the Just for Kids account,” she said, and “has been very supportive of youth in our community through grants, clothing and supply donations, etc.”
With Mercer gone from USD 465, Superintendent Nathan Reed said her position has been moved to the elementary school.
The counselors in the high school and middle school have been charged with doing what she was doing in the schools, Reed said.
He is enthusiastic about the partnership with the Community Health Center in Cowley County and said Mercer will be coordinating between the agencies, helping find referrals in the schools and in the community.
The work is supported by a number of grants, Reed said.
Mercer said she is very excited to be able to remain working in Winfield “to help meet the needs of our youth and families.” She can be contacted at the CHCCC, (620) 221-3350, ext. 125.