posted at 10:18 am Tue Feb 13th, 2018 by (WherezIt_Staff)
Rural mental health services are difficult to access, especially for children. Schools across the nation are struggling to meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of a shockingly high number of children burdened by debilitating anxiety and depression.
In many situations, the children have been affected by significant trauma in relation to the nation's rise in substance abuse, domestic violence, and/or poverty.
Vermont has the highest percentage of rural students (55 percent) in the country and is one of only two states where more than half of students are rural. The Northeast Kingdom is the most rural part of the state. High levels of student poverty impact our ability to fully meet student needs. Rural areas face structural disadvantages, such as limited mental health capacity. The 2015 Vermont County Health Rankings (University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2015) Essex and Orleans County are ranked 13th and 14th and Caledonia County is ranked 9th of 14 in terms or poor health outcomes which includes higher rates of obesity, smoking, drug and alcohol use.
Fundamental services are less accessible and often go without necessary intervention and treatment for children living outside urban or metropolitan areas. Despite the multiple theories concerning the reasoning behind and how to address the child mental health crisis, our youth and families are relying on the structure of our educational system to attend to the evident, immediate need.
Vermont's people take pride in their ingenuity and dedication to quality work. They also consistently and effectively manage problems with compassion, common sense, and logic. A decade ago leaders at Caledonia North Supervisory Union (soon to be part of the merged Kingdom East School District) recognized mental health issues as a growing problem in our schools and applied for a grant, Safe Schools Healthy Students. This is an example of Vermont's creative problem solving. Our decision to address the crisis of mental health care accessibility for youth and families is unique from other Supervisory Unions and not well known.
The CNSU grant made it possible to employ independent, in-house Licensed Clinical Mental Health therapists (LCMHC) for individual schools. This program was deemed sustainable even after the grant ended. It continues to thrive, retaining the same LCMHC staff throughout the years, providing consistency and continuity for the children, their families, and the schools.
These therapists under the supervision of the clinical psychologist are trained in complex developmental trauma, EMDR, Cognitive Behavioral therapy, play therapy, mindfulness, self-regulation, art therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique, as well as other therapeutic approaches. They continue to work within the schools as an integrated part of the school community - providing trainings, consultation, and support to school faculty and staff. The role, skill sets, and application of these services have evolved over time, woven into the fabric of the Supervisory Union communities. Our clinicians provide stability and immediate therapeutic interventions to those who may not otherwise be able to access needed care. This comprehensive care includes the growing population who struggle directly or indirectly with our opioid crisis, domestic violence, financial, food, and housing insecurity, as well as other childhood trauma.
This has been a successful model of mental health care delivery in our supervisory union. The school based model may merit consideration for other school districts' approach to the Vermont's mental health care crisis. It's success over time has shown value and effectiveness.
This model provides timely, compassionate, and high-quality mental health care at a time the children of our state need it the most.
Lyndonville, VT 05851 (Set as Local)