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Cardinal Innovations System of Care Manager Beth Pfister Receives Gary Ander Making a Difference Award for Family-Driven Care

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Cardinal Innovations Healthcare System of Care Manager Beth Pfister was recognized recently with the Gary Ander Making a Difference Award for Family-Driven Care for her work in helping to give Cardinal Innovations members and their families a strong voice in setting their goals and making decisions about care.

The award is sponsored by the North Carolina Families United and presented annually during the annual state System of Care Meeting. The award is given to a North Carolina agency staff, family member or state leader who exemplifies what it means to support and recognize the importance of family voice in a Family-Driven System of Care environment. Pfister received the award at this year's state System of Care Meeting on May 12.

North Carolina Families United supports the voices of youth with mental health concerns and their families by educating and advocating for improved services and lives.

Pfister, who has worked for Cardinal Innovations for eight years, leads System of Care, which helps meet the needs of families who are involved with multiple child service agencies, such as child welfare, mental health, schools, juvenile justice and health care. System of Care is a collaboration between multiple agencies to achieve the outcomes desired by the youth and family through a comprehensive network of community-based services and supports.

System of Care is a part of a National Initiative that was established in 1992 when Congress established the Children's Mental Health Initiative (CMHI) within the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA).

“Beth (Pfister) has been a godsend. We just love having her as part of our partnership," said North Carolina Families United Executive Director Gail Cormier. “She has been an advocate of establishing local collaboratives and bringing in family voices. She's currently collaborating with a big System of Care expansion grant and, without her, I don't think it would be as strong as it is."

Cormier said the Gary Ander award has been given for seven years and this year had a record 28 nominations – four of which were for Pfister.

Prior to joining Cardinal Innovations, Pfister worked in an outpatient setting, working primarily with youth with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. She also supervised a team of clinicians providing therapy services to youth and families and another team providing therapy for substance use disorders. She also has experience working in a psychiatric residential treatment facility for adolescent males.

Pfister said her passion for helping others is what initially drew her to working in behavioral health.

“When I was in school, I took my first psychology class and I knew that it was my calling to help others in need," she said. “I have always been drawn to working with youth and teens. System of Care is a perfect fit as I am able to support systemic change while still working with families."

One recent project joined representatives from Cardinal Innovations System of Care team and North Carolina Families United with faculty at the UNC Charlotte School of Social Work in a partnership to train social work students on System of Care Child and Family Teams from the Family Perspective.

“Our System of Care team is always looking for innovative ways to support community change," Pfister said. “We know this change needs to start with those new to the helping profession so we targeted the universities."

Cardinal Innovations System of Care Coordinator Noel Thomas-Lester, who worked on this project under Pfister's leadership, said, “Similar to the System of Care's practice of using a Child and Family Teams approach to working with youth and families, the UNCC trainings have mirrored that process by promoting rich discussion and idea sharing from the varying perspectives of participating students."

In addition, Pfister's team has been working to expand System of Care statewide by training other trainers with North Carolina Families United representatives. Pfister said, “Expanding System of Care is important because it takes a holistic approach to behavioral health, improving outcomes by bringing together representatives from many community organizations that interact with the individual who is receiving care."

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