Outstanding Corporate Citizenship Awards Finalist Interview with Wendy Gradison, President & CEO, PRS
1. What is your mission and vision?
PRS exists so that individuals living with mental illness, substance use disorders, mild intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and anyone who faces life crises can achieve safety, personal wellness, recovery and community integration.
It is PRS’ vision to make our services as easily accessible as possible to ensure anyone experiencing a crisis or living with a mental illness can and will recover and achieve safety.
2. How does your organization achieve its mission?
To accomplish its mission, PRS focuses on four Priority Results. PRS clients will:
3. How have your programs directly impacted the Northern Virginia community?
Last year, PRS served over 1,000 clients and PRS CrisisLink handled nearly 40,000 crisis calls. Additionally, 97% of clients stayed out of the psychiatric hospital; 62% of PRS Employment Services clients actively seeking employment were employed – 3 times the national average; and 99% of PRS community support (home-based) services and community housing clients maintained their housing and avoided eviction. As PRS’ clients reach their recovery goals, they are active members of our community - working, volunteering, and furthering their education by attending classes at community colleges and through adult education programs.
On June 1, 2014, PRS CrisisLink launched a textline to provide crisis and suicide prevention services via texting. While available to the entire community, there is a special focus on teens, youth and young adults. Texting is the number one mode of communication for teens with the average teen texting a median of sixty times a day. 85% of teens report using technology as their primary means to communicate with others. The textline allows PRS CrisisLink to help people during a difficult time in a way that the person in crisis feels the most comfortable, thus maximizing the possibility he/she will reach out for help. In the first two quarters of FY15, PRS CrisisLink handled 2,145 text conversations and 96,060 texts were exchanged.
4. What inspires or drives your team to stay committed to your mission?
We are inspired by our clients and their tireless work to reach the goals they set for themselves. PRS’ annual outcomes show that individuals living with mental illness can and do recover, regaining the confidence and independence to go back to work, maintain their housing and contribute to our community.
We are inspired by our volunteers –people who give their time, talent, and treasure to help those with mental illness learn new skills, get through a crisis, or even practice interviewing for a job. These dedicated individuals inspire us by: answering crisis phone calls and texts around the clock, every day of the year; teaching classes that help build client skills and participate fully in the community; or developing an organizational dashboard so we can quickly understand our progress and take action to meet our goals.
5. What advice would you give to other nonprofits trying to make an impact in their community?
Focus on your organization’s results and outcomes. At PRS, we believe that you cannot improve what you cannot measure. Additionally, focus on your employees and the important role they play in reaching your organizational outcomes.
For the past five years, PRS has been recognized as one of the 50 Best Nonprofits to Work For in the US, by the NonProfit Times. Through this annual evaluation process, PRS is compared to a national cohort in all aspects of the organization, including outstanding employee satisfaction; engagement and development opportunities; organizational culture; leadership and planning; pay/benefits; and work environment. The evaluation includes a confidential employee engagement and satisfaction survey used to evaluate the workplace experience and organizational culture. Although the survey is confidential, PRS is provided with general feedback from employee responses that allows PRS leadership to ensure our employees are informed about and fully engaged in helping us reach our mission.