From Kids Oneida to ICAN: Agency renaming aims to tell whole story

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UTICA — Keeping families together was the message as Kids Oneida officials announced the children’s emotional and mental health organization is changing it’s name to Integrated Community Alternatives Network, or ICAN during a press conference on Thursday.

Steven Bulger, CEO and executive director of ICAN, discussed the renaming and rebranding effort, and how the transition will help the non-profit agency continue to serve the community.

“While the organization’s vision and mission of empowering individuals and families remains the same, the depth and breadth of services we offer and the individuals we’re able to help has evolved exponentially. The name Kids Oneida no longer speaks to the whole of our organization,” Bulger said.

“ICAN is intended to encompass our previous growth and position us for further expansion if that’s what the future holds,” the agency CEO added.

Bulger said the organization was established with the premise that children deserved better and families deserved better.

“Today’s announcement is about the evolution of our agency,” Bulger said.

“From one program to many, from a handful of staff in a small basement office over 20 years ago to today with 350 behavioral health professionals serving over 1,200 families every day across 16 programs in six-plus counties and growing,” he said.

According to its website, ICAN’s programs extend to children and their families in Oneida, Herkimer, Montgomery, Madison, Oswego and Otsego counties.

Bulger said the visionaries who initially conceived this organization did so with the understanding the most effective services could not be provided in a traditional clinical or institutional setting, but needed to be where families needed them the most...at home.

Bulger also said the organizations proudest accomplishment is its 98 percent success rate across its various community-based programs. Programs such as Kids Oneida, Kids Herkimer and Kids Otsego, programs that address the sensitive needs of children with emotional, behavioral and mental health issues.

He also touted Evelyn’s House, which strives to assist young mothers with successful integration into the community. Helping them find careers, housing, graduation from high school, if needs be, and how to utilize community resources.

Also highlighted was the Nurturing Parent Program which teaches parenting and life skills in the hopes of providing a safe and comfortable environment while maintaining strong bonds and effective parenting techniques.

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente gave thanks to his predecessors for the work they did 20 years ago when Kids Oneida was first formed.

“Credit does belong to those founders back then,” Picente said.

“My predecessor Ralph Eannace, now a city court judge, Ted Warren, commissioner of social services and Phil Endress was the mental health commissioner working together with the different agencies and brainstorming about how they could fix the system, or maybe- just make it better. After which, they reached out to their boss Gov. George Pataki to get the funding to kick this off and that’s how it all started,” Picente said, adding that one of those unnamed founders was in attendance.

“While they are not around today there is someone who is around,” said Picente. “Randy Caldwell, current family court judge, Randal B. Caldwell, he was county attorney back then, so judge you take the credit today.”

“Our goal is to keep families together, not pull them apart, our goal is to do what’s right and that’s what organizations like ICAN are all about,” Picente said. “I want to commend the staff and the board of Kids Oneida, because that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where the work gets done. I’m proud to serve with them. Here’s to another 20 years.”

“While our scope has widened our vision stays the same,” Bulger said. “Kids Oneida does not go away. It will always be our core program that everything else blossomed from. We will always work to restore social and behavioral health and well being to keep families together.”

For more information about the agency visit www.ican.family, or call 315-792-9039.

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