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Sixteen-year-old Alex was already struggling before the disruption of the pandemic sent him into a dangerous downward spiral. Increasingly he’d leave home before dawn, not returning for hours or until the police had been called to help located him. He’d sleep only 2-3 hours per night which made it impossible for him to focus or concentrate on his online classes. To make matters worse, he’d stopped taking his medication.

Alex lives with his grandmother who’d been appointed his guardian after the abuse and multiple separations he’d experienced from both his biological parents. She’d been trying desperately to find the help he needed but his increasingly aggressive behavior toward her as well as others had become more than she could handle.

In the year before his referral to Beech Brook’s SAFE Program, he’d been admitted to the hospital four times after displaying multiple high-risk behaviors, including talk of suicide, aggressive behavior and substance abuse.

Embracing a “do whatever it takes” philosophy, SAFE helps families by linking them with a wide variety of community supports, in addition to providing therapeutic help. The program is part of Cuyahoga County’s Tapestry System of Care.

When SAFE Care Coordinator Bridget Berry was assigned to the case, Alex’s grandmother felt a glimmer of hope.

Bridget’s first job was to coordinate the services being provided to Alex by two different systems, the Board of Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Children and Family Services. The teams agreed that a stay in residential treatment was the first step to stabilize Alex and get him back on track. As the case manager/therapist, Bridget lined up the resources he and his grandmother needed, included home modifications for safety and security, specialized therapy to address his autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, enrollment in a gym, and linkage to other vital resources.

Alex has now returned to in-person learning at his alternative school, where he is doing much better. His grandmother feels safer and greatly relieved by all the services and supports that have been put in place. "Beech Brook was a voice for us when I believed there was nowhere left to turn," she said. "They were able to make what I had been told was impossible, possible."

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