« Back

YSS of North Iowa hosts HHS director

Director of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kelly Garcia and her team were at YSS of North Iowa in Mason City to tour our behavioral health and youth emergency services/shelter facilities, connect with staff, engage with youth, and get an understanding of the challenges and triumphs that define our work.

The day started early with a waffle breakfast cooked by YSS President and CEO Andrew Allen for the youth and staff at the YSSNI Shelter. We recently increased starting wages to $17/hour for our direct care staff, knowing that there is no better investment than the people who are on the front lines caring for youth in crisis.

Next, one of our core values – collaboration – was on display as we highlighted the partnership under Garcia’s leadership. Garcia and her team were shown around campus, where the last phase of an over $4 million renovation project is nearing completion. The transformation includes the YSS trauma-informed welcome center, designed to support and empower youth as they begin their journey with us.

YSS President and CEO Andrew Allen, with some assistance from YSS of North Iowa Director Sara Lindquist, served a waffle breakfast made by our #NationalWaffleDay gifts from local supporters.

Kelly took the time to connect with one of our clients and their parents, listening attentively to their experiences and how the system, along with YSS, was making a positive impact.

“We are grateful that Kelly and her team took the time to come to Mason City and meet our staff,” Allen said. “Collaboration and compassion are at the core of what we do, and this day exemplified it.”

Lunchtime was a special moment as stakeholders, including HHS members, engaged in conversations with youth. The voices that often go unheard were valued through this dialogue.

“While my table started out a little quiet, I was impressed to see Marissa (Eyanson, Division Director of Behavioral Health from HHS) connect with the young girl seated with us,” Advisory Board Chair Shannon Wooge said. “(Eyanson) asked questions like, ‘What changes would you make?’ What is most important to you? Tell me what a perfect day looks like for you.’ We saw her walls come down, and she opened up and shared several pieces of her story.”

Other lunch tables experience similar interactions.

We discussed challenges, particularly youth placement issues that have concerned both our program and local law enforcement. Mason City Chief of Police, Jeff Brinkley, participated throughout the day and shared his concerns and ideas. What followed was a thoughtful and balanced dialogue with HHS acknowledging the need for change and commitment to finding solutions.

Partnerships and trust are at the core of what we do. This day exemplified it. The feeling of coming together, taking ownership, and working toward a better tomorrow. The conversations sparked hope and opportunity.

“A feeling that nothing is impossible when like-minded individuals put their heads together for a common goal,” Wooge said.

Other News

See all News