Concord advocacy company links parents with resources for mentally ill, disabled children

I usually avoid any type of shopping the day after Thanksgiving, but this year Moss Creek Village held a special Black Friday event to help out local vendors.

It was there I met two very hard-working kids and their incredibly dedicated mom. The mom, Gwen Bartley, adopted these two siblings from foster care in 2005. They were 4 and 2 years old at the time, and Bartley had no idea they would need extra care.

Each child, however, eventually was given a dual diagnosis of mental illness and intellectual disabilities.

So what’s a mother to do? Take action, of course.

“I formed an advocacy company to help my two special-needs children and other families navigate through the mental health and intellectual disabilities system; to find and utilize what is available,” Bartley said.

“There are great programs and services out there, but consumers have a hard time gaining access to them. My goal is to streamline the process and educate families how to effectively find the help they need.”

The name of the group Bartley founded is Amazing Grace Advocacy. Its motto is “Every life has a purpose.”

“The other aspect of Amazing Grace Advocacy was to help my children discover their talents and give them opportunities for a future. We want to encourage everyone with any type of disability to discover their purpose,” Bartley said.

“My children love to do arts and crafts. It’s a very calming activity for them, so we created a line of Christmas cards from their artwork, and they took part in ordering, packaging, marketing and selling the cards.”

Originally from Michigan, this very busy mom also has three other children: two biological and one other adopted.

She runs a monthly social group for adolescents, teens, young adults and their families who are living with mental illness or disabilities. The next meeting is Jan. 13.

“We have a variety of meetings from, fun social activities, outings and some informative workshops for families,” Bartley said.

Now that the holidays are over, Bartley is putting together a Cabarrus County directory and looking for sponsors. “Local families need a quick and easy-to-follow directory of doctors, therapists and services. One that lays out what insurance is accepted, type of service and what their specialty is. When your child is in crisis; you don’t have the time to waste on the phone with insurance and receptionists,” she said.

“There will also be easy-to-follow guidelines for the process of getting services for more severe or long-term care that is needed.”

Bartley said she will donate a copy of the directory to each public and private school in Cabarrus County. “Schools are often the first responders to mental health crises with adolescents; they, too, don’t have the availability to research and recommend providers and services to parents.

“When a student needs help; the schools will be able to, at minimum, give parents a list of doctors, therapists and services to call,” Bartley said.