Helping the Ozark Center Help Kids


A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of participating in a press conference in Joplin hosted by Ozark Center, the local community behavioral health center. They were announcing a new smart phone app called Help Kids Cope, developed in conjunction with UCLA’s National Child Traumatic Stress Network and with funding from the Foundation. The timing for rolling out an app to help families learn what to say and do before, during and after a disaster was well-timed; just a few days later Joplin would mark the fifth anniversary of the most devastating tornado in Missouri history.

I was asked to speak about why we were interested in funding their proposal in 2013, entitled “Improving Mental Health Access and Outcomes through Technology,” an ambitious idea to develop and incorporate several innovative technologies, including Help Kids Cope, into their treatment programs. Simply put, we were intrigued. If any place had reason to improve access to mental health services using new technology, it was Joplin.

Because of this pilot project, two other mobile technologies are now available to broader audiences:

  • myStrength—With Foundation investment, this smartphone app and web-based resource is now  available at all community behavioral health centers in Missouri
  • Super Me!—Designed with the Disaster and Community Crisis Center at the University of Missouri, this fun game app helps kids build emotional resiliency to better handle tough situations and is available, along with Help Kids Cope, on
    the Apple App Store

Funders and nonprofits work in the difficult world of trying solve intractable social problems, where change is often measured in decades and the results of short-term grants are mostly just the beginning of something bigger. But here I was seeing something tangible, the direct result of a risk we took on a proposal with promise. Patience may be a virtue, but sometimes nothing beats the immediate gratification of the here and now.

-Michael Renner, Program OfficerOzark Center help kids cope logo renner blog2