New Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative director envisions expansion of community education on trauma, big picture solutions

Sierra Rains
The Daily Ardmoreite
Ellen Roberts

The Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative has a new face as the director of the program. Ellen Roberts took over the position in mid-June, with a vision to expand community education on trauma and to find big picture solutions by addressing trauma and other problems in the community before they begin. 

Prior to accepting her new position as director, Roberts worked as the financial literacy coordinator for the Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma; and formerly acted as the director of a maternity shelter in Oklahoma City for eight years. 

It was at the shelter in OKC that she began to observe some of the issues she now hopes to address as director of the ABHC. 

“Doing that work really helped me see the really specific obstacles that my clients were facing,” Roberts said. “The longer that I did that work and was involved with the organization, I could see the bigger picture issues that were contributing to those obstacles — trauma being a big one.”

Roberts also observed a great amount of poverty among her clients, which helped her to explore some of the root causes of poverty, and saw people’s health impacted by their lack of access to healthcare. 

“I think that a key part of that is educating everyone on those issues because sometimes I think we get caught in the weeds of trying to figure out this specific program, solve this specific problem without zooming out and figuring how can we stop that from becoming a problem to begin with,” Roberts said. 

Since 2016, the Ardmore Behavioral Health Collaborative has partnered with over 80 different community organizations, including schools, businesses, government agencies, nonprofits and health care organizations to improve behavioral wellness not only in Ardmore, but throughout Carter County. 

“We do that by facilitating connections, building partnerships between organizations and also individuals, and work to develop solutions and processes that hopefully transform the community health and then behavioral wellness also,” Roberts said. 

Organizations like Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers, which took over the ABHC in June, along with the Good Shepherd Community Clinic, Carter County Health Department, Ardmore Mercy Hospital, Community Children’s Shelter and First National Bank all have staff members who sit on the advisory board for the collaborative. 

Roberts said a lot of great work has been done over the course of those years, and while she has some new ideas in the works, many programs already initiated by the collaborative will be continued.

“The main focus over the past few years has been really focused on building those partnerships and the community education,” Roberts said. 

Last year, the ABHC piloted the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools program at schools in Dickson and Lone Grove to help children learn how to cope with their own childhood trauma. 

The pilot programs lasted until spring 2020 and though all plans are tentative due to COVID-19, Roberts said there are plans in place to continue those programs and possibly expand them into other area schools. 

Roberts also sees potential in expanding programs for organizations and businesses that are working to become more trauma informed into the Ardmore area. 

“I am very excited about this position. I think that there has been a lot of really great work done and I think that there is more and more potential to keep expanding those partnerships,” Roberts said, adding that she is passionate about finding solutions to some of the bigger picture problems. “I’m excited about continuing that work and expanding that.”