Founded almost four years ago by Sherlene and Jim Dean, Matt’s Place is a one stop shop for families to receive the professional support they require for raising children with Social and Behavioral issues. This year, we were incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to support Matt’s Place in two distinct ways. First, we gave a monetary donation that will help keep the services offered at a low and accessible price for families. We also partnered with and donated a comprehensive classroom Bitsbox to teach children about coding. We were lucky enough to take one of our Autism Awareness trucks to Matt’s Place, tour their facilities, and interview the founders to discuss the organization, how they help the community at large and what their plans are for the next five years.

When asked about the motivation for creating Matt’s Place, Sherlene described the hardships associated with raising a child or a child with any mental illness. “[It] is quite a drain on a family financially, time, emotionally, and we wanted to have services closer for them.” Jim goes into deeper detail, “The national average for raising a child with Autism runs between forty and forty-five thousand dollars a year to treat and get them services…depending on what state they’re in and what health insurance coverage they have.”

Sherlene describes how she has extensive experience working at the University of Utah in the Neuro Behavioral Clinic and that Jim’s youngest son [Matt] has high functioning Autism. “My practice at the University was centered around helping Autistic children and families. And when you work with these kids you fall in love with these kids.” “As we were together and we felt that we have been very blessed in our lives and there’s a community that we need to give back to. We knew Davis County didn’t have a lot of services out here and often to drive into Salt Lake for services was impeding some of my family’s being able to access services that they needed.” “So with Jim’s business acumen and my clinic experience we decided to put together a clinic as a give back to the community and that’s the inspiration for Matt’s Place.” In the three and a half years since its foundation, Matt’s Place has had a significant impact on the local mental health community, serving between 800 and 900 families through parenting classes and social skill groups.

“Here is one place where families can come to get neuropsych testing, psychiatric evaluations, med management, family therapy, individual therapy, group and occupational therapy. We’re starting a ‘sib shop’ for the siblings of families, because they can sometimes feel left out.” Matt’s Place also offers day treatment and partial day treatment, and even after-school programs. “A one stop shop for a family’s needs.” While on the topic of cost, Jim described more of the financial burden placed on families and how Matt’s Place helps offset that cost. “In Utah, as their deductible goes up each year they may have a ten thousand dollar deductible paid to ten thousand dollar deductible per child which they have to pay for out of pocket before their insurance kicks in. That places a huge burden on these families, especially those that have multiple children.” While Matt’s Place is a non-profit and is primarily funded by insurance, they do hold a gala every other year to help raise money to subsidize the cost to families. “With the money that you donated, we will use that to help pay the tuition for those kids.” We moved on to discuss how they plan on implementing the Bitsboxes that were donated. “It’s a wonderful gift because we have wanted to have a life skills/social skills program for young adolescents, older adolescents, and post high school kids.” “But it’s very difficult to get them to leave their homes, leave their computers and come interact. When you add in that Bitsbox element that is a draw so we can incorporate life skills and social skills with our already innate love for technology.” “And learning a skill incorporates that which I think will help attract those kids come and then we can add in and teach those life skills and social skills which is so important for them. To be able to integrate into society and into success in adult hood. Especially with coding and anything to do with Bitsboxes.” If you want to learn more about giving to Matt’s Place visit their website. And a special thank you to Bitsboxes for helping us to supply Matt’s Place with their classroom curriculum kits. Learn more about Bitsboxes here.