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Beth Houghton on her new role at Juvenile Welfare Board – and why its focus drew her in [Audio]

Megan Holmes

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Click the arrow above to listen to the full conversation between Juvenile Welfare Board’s new CEO, Beth Houghton and St. Pete Catalyst Publisher Joe Hamilton.

When Beth Houghton took the helm of the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County (JWB) in mid-September, she was fresh off of nearly eight years at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. The well-known community change-maker hadn’t been looking for a new role. She was happily leading the St. Petersburg Free Clinic’s years-long expansion in the community, fully-supported by a functional board, when a board member of JWB reached out and asked her to apply to be the organization’s chief executive officer.

“I’d been aware that they were looking, and to be honest it wasn’t something that had sunk in as something I might really look at,” Houghton explained. “But when I was sought out I was forced to look at it a bit more closely.

“For me, the ability to focus strictly on children was hugely appealing. I’ve always cared about making a difference for people who were behind the 8-ball and didn’t have the advantages that I’d had, but children have always been the heart of my heart. I spent 12 years at All Children’s, that time always appealed to me a great deal.”

Houghton and Hamilton talk about Houghton’s decision to leave the Free Clinic after nearly eight successful years of growth and prosperity to take on a new challenge at JWB, a governmental organization subject to Sunshine Law, overseeing a budget of $94.3 million and workforce of 62.

“Those were the two major things [children and government] I really thought about, but the budget and the focus told me it was a place I could be a part of making a huge impact for children.”

Houghton brings extensive multi-sector experience to the role. She is both an attorney and a certified public accountant in the state of Florida, and spent 11 years as CFO and General Counsel of All Children’s Hospital.

JWB is a major funder and collaborator with numerous organizations throughout Pinellas County. Houghton explains what JWB looks for in organizations it funds, and explains why smaller organizations may not be the right fit for JWB’s funds, as JWB requires grantees share data and evidence of impact in outcomes like reading level or grade improvements.

Houghton and her new team are in the process of building a strategic plan for the next three years, listening to the community and finding the strongest ways to collaborate with other organizations. One example of this collaboration is a new childhood mental health program, a collaborative effort between the school system, primary health care and mental health providers in Pinellas Country. The effort will place behavioral health professionals into primary care health centers, providing mental and behavioral healthcare screening primarily to Medicaid-eligible children.

Click the arrow above to listen to the full conversation. 

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