For All Seasons in Easton, Maryland, was one of ten programs in eight states and Puerto Rico that recently received recognition for its work in rural communities by the Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC). The programs have been nominated for their innovative practices in justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and public health.
The RJC showcases the strengths of rural communities and highlights cross-sector collaboration success to overcome unique challenges that impact their ability to deliver fair and equitable justice. The work under the RJC is supported by an advisory council composed of rural judges along with additional stakeholders in the justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and public health systems.
In addition to For All Seasons, innovation sites selected in February 2022 included Eastern Shore Mobile Care Collaborative at Caroline County (Maryland) Health Department, Opioid Response as County Law Enforcement (ORACLE) in Ulster County (NY) Sheriff’s Office, Gender Violence Initiative in Puerto Rico, Texoma Alliance to Stop Abuse, Inc. in Texas, Benevolence Farm in North Carolina, Journey Court in Michigan, Rankin County Youth Court in Mississippi, Tennessee Recovery Oriented Compliance Strategy in Tennessee, and Lyon County Human Services Forensic Assessment Triage Team in Nevada.
According to Pam Ortiz, board member at For All Seasons and Director of Access to Justice with the Maryland Judiciary, who nominated the organization, “Our entire nation and the state of Maryland suffers from a lack of access to mental health services and workforce, especially in the mental health deserts typical of many rural communities. The justice system and the behavioral health community are natural partners and can learn from one another about ways to best serve rural communities. For All Seasons recognizes the need for innovative practices typically reserved for more population-dense areas and its leadership works collaboratively with community organizations to identify the root causes of problems and provide a comprehensive continuum of care. For All Seasons has excelled at developing a model for rural communities on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that could also be used nationally. This award captures this recognition.”
With a team of health care providers, For All Seasons offers therapy, psychiatry, rape crisis, and mental health services to clients regardless of their ability to pay. For All Seasons’ partners include the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, & Victim Services, the State Attorney’s Office, social services, emergency medical services, law enforcement, school systems, and county councils for referrals and community outreach. For All Seasons also works with local businesses and organizations to offer mental health resources and training that reduce stigma, increase knowledge, and provide tools and skills that benefit the individuals and families across our community.
Beth Anne Langrell, For All Seasons CEO, reflects, “Slow and steady wins the race. The story of For All Seasons is one of sustainable expansion of services that builds upon a solid foundation of strong financial health. It’s tempting to pursue every program or initiative that seems related to your mission. If you expand too quickly or engage in mission creep, your organization can become spread too thin to make a real impact on people’s lives. The key is to focus on programs that fill gaps for your community in a way that is also aligned with what your organization already does best.”
The recently created Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC), an initiative run by The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and Rulo Strategies, is calling attention to the challenges that people in rural areas face in getting access to legal help, behavioral health treatment, and job training, among other services. The NCSC, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit court organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation’s state courts. The Rural Justice Collaborative is funded by the State Justice Institute.
“We want to provide justice systems in rural communities an opportunity to spotlight what’s working and create a network to support their growth in positive outcomes,” said Kristina Bryant, a principal court management consultant who is leading this effort for NCSC. “We believe this includes recognition of their strengths and the unique characteristics of small towns.”