History of Listening Ear

FOCUSING ON WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO 24 HOURS A DAY

The Crisis Center, Inc., doing business as Listening Ear, a charitable nonprofit accredited organization, has grown over the last four decades from a single 24-hour crisis line serving one community to a multi‑service agency staffed by nearly 400 people in multiple counties and impacting over 20,000 persons annually.

In 1969, Listening Ear was the brainchild of a few Central Michigan University (CMU) students who recognized that although other university towns had a 24-hour crisis line service, Mt. Pleasant did not.  In those early years, the all volunteer staffed Crisis Center operated from various donated spaces and on a very small budget with funding from the United Fund, a CMU student association, and donations from service organizations.

By the mid 1970’s the program had grown with nearly 50 volunteers.  At that time, most calls, (numbering not more than 2,500 in a year) were from community residents or students seeking a confidential and empathic listening ear while working through issues such as health, mental health and personal relationships.

During the 1980’s, as the number of calls to the Crisis Center began to increase to 4,000 a year,  the Crisis Center program expanded its information/referral service, began offering an after hours call service for several local health and human service providers and produced a countywide/regional Resource Directory.  Listening Ear also established permanent headquarters and offices at 107 E Illinois, Mt. Pleasant.

As the agency gained positive recognition in the community, and building on its ability to provide services 24 hours everyday, the Board of Directors began looking for options to diversify programs and funding sources.  Within five years and with new local, state and federal contracts, Listening Ear began providing residential and support services for adults with developmental disabilities in Shepherd, Mt. Pleasant, and Clare, launched a new Runaway Youth Services program offering counseling, temporary shelter and youth advocacy in Clare and Isabella Counties and began a new.  Child Foster Care program.  The program recruited foster families, provided training, assured quality and compliance of requirements, assisted with placement, and maintains records for all of the foster care homes.   Also developed was a one of a kind specialized Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Program for child victims of sexual abuse and/or incest.

The 1990’s, and into the 2000 decade, saw considerable growth, as the demand for services grew in both size and scope and the organization began reaching into new counties.  The Crisis Center alone served nearly 10,000 persons annually by the end of the 1990’s.  Today that number has tripled to almost 30,000 callers a year.

During these last two decades the agency has spent considerable effort to maintain and improve quality and accountability by structuring the multiple services into three primary “teams.”  The multi-service team framework is structured to achieve consumer and staff satisfaction through an integrated efficient delivery system and a consumer driven and person or family centered planning approach.  An approach was incorporated agency-wide that focused on the strengths and desires of each person served — CAN do.  The services also became more interdependent sharing support services, 24 hour response and on-call services and expertise.

The Residential Services team provides housing and other support services for persons with disabilities in group homes, adult licensed foster care homes or in their own apartments. Its mission is to provide quality, person-centered living arrangements, and support services for adults and children who have disabilities residing in northern and mid-Michigan areas. Listening Ear is licensed as a provider of residential services by the Michigan Department of Human Services, Office of Children and Adult Licensing.  Five professionals serve as the Directors of Residential Services for the Isabella, Clare, Ionia, Antrim and Kalkaska Counties.  The agency’s Rental Manager coordinates rental housing with over 70 units for individuals and families with low and moderate incomes in Isabella County. A new Homeownership Program offers Housing Counseling and Education to homeowners and new home buyers in Isabella, Clare, Midland, Gratiot, Montcalm and Mecosta Counties. Its purpose is to promote homeownership and housing stability, limit delinquencies and foreclosures, and, strengthen the communities served.

Child & Family Services provides prevention, emergency and treatment services to children and adults.  This team provides 24-hour Crisis Intervention, Information and Referral services to Isabella and Clare counties and after-hours mental health on call service to seven counties in mid-Michigan. The team is also responsible for the Runaway and Homeless Youth program that addresses the immediate needs — prevention, intervention, emergency shelter and after-care — of at-risk youth ages 12-17 and their families in Clare and Isabella counties and surrounding areas, who are or who are at risk of, homelessness or running away.  The Child Foster Care Program provides crisis, temporary, and extended specialized foster care to children in seven counties.  The Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Program offers crisis and support services to child victims of sexual abuse and/or incest in Isabella and Clare Counties and surrounding areas. The Transitional Living Program supports young people ages 16-21 that are facing homelessness in Isabella and Clare Counties and surrounding areas to learn self-sufficiency skills.

The third team, Business Support, assures overall quality agency management and financial excellence by maintaining and updating the agency’s policy and procedure manual, managing human resources (personnel hiring/separation, personnel reports, and maintenance of records), and quality management and assurance, including consumer satisfactions surveys, case management, community surveys, internal and external audits, and the management information system that measures outcomes. The team manages financial services, payroll, billing, vendor payments, reports, income and expense statements. Fiscal control and accounting procedures are in place to insure prudent control procedures are in place for payment reconciliation, payroll, and all vouchers and receipts. An annual audit is completed and the agency carries broad liability insurance which includes professional, board and facility liability insurance. Striving to maintain excellence in services, Listening Ear achieved accreditation status with Council on Accreditation in 1998 which continues today. The agency is also a proud United Way agency in Isabella and Clare Counties.

New projects in the last few years have included:

  • An emphasis on fund development to further diversify and stabilize funding – including three new endowments – Crisis Center, Child Sexual Abuse Treatment and Needs and Dreams. In 2011, a new endowment was established at the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation in memory and in honor of a past board president of Listening Ear. Called the Phil A. Langlois Endowment Fund for Listening Ear, it’s primary purpose is to support programs and consumers of Listening Ear;
  • Micro-Enterprises for consumers in Residential Services to earn additional income and dignity, while promoting greater self-sufficiency;
  • A Chapman/Faber fund to help employees who are facing hardships;
  • A Council made of up youth served by Child and Family Service programs where young people can advise staff and the Board about improving access and services, gain leadership skills and perform community service;
  • A new independent living program for youth for older youth;
  • A new housing education and counseling program;
  • A partnership with 2-1-1 Northeast Michigan as call center.