News Article Details

Grant to VCSC adds to mental health care

Tribune-Star - 3/16/2019

March 16-- Mar. 16--Vigo County School Corp. students will soon benefit from additional counseling services provided by various community agencies.

The additional services are being funded through Project AWARE, a five-year, $2.8 million federal grant aimed at helping the district better respond to the mental health needs of school children.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for our community," said Rick Stevens, VCSC assistant director of student services. "We know the needs are there ... This involves having outside vendors come into the school corporation to provide services to students" who otherwise might not be served.

On Friday, Stevens and Megan Kirk, Project AWARE coach, met with five outside vendors to go over memorandums of understanding; the vendors will provide both group and individual counseling. All 28 VCSC schools will benefit, and each school identified its priority needs.

School counselors will identify students who can benefit.

Providers represented were FSA Counseling, Hamilton Center, Harsha Behavioral Center, Gibault and Griffin and Associates. The services are to begin the second week of April and last six weeks.

Topics that could be covered in group counseling sessions include bullying prevention, skills for healthy relationships, anger management, conflict resolution, stress management and grief/loss.

The district received notice of the grant in mid-September. "We had a lot of homework to do first" in ironing out details for grant implementation, Stevens said.

The district, one of three chosen statewide to receive the federal funding, hopes to expand on programming already in place, and those efforts will serve as a model for the rest of the state.

More vendors could be used in the future. Officials have allocated $41,000 for group counseling and $38,000 for individual counseling, with the first year of the grant concluding Sept. 30.

Other initiatives have been underway as well.

--Mental Health America of West Central Indiana is providing suicide prevention training for school counselors, behavior interventionists and deans.

--The district is contracting with Chavez Phelps from Indiana State University to provide workshops on childhood trauma and interventions.

--Hamilton Center has provided Youth Mental Health First Aid Training to staff and the goal is to train 240 staff this year. "There are a lot of training opportunities through this grant," Stevens said.

The Project AWARE grant will help ensure that all children who need mental health services have access to those services, Stevens said last fall.

When a student experiences depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, "It really impacts the child's educational progress," Stevens said at that time. "Until we can get those issues resolved, it will impede their learning."

Separate from the Project AWARE grant, Hamilton Center already has staff assigned to different schools, both therapists and care managers, who provide services in the schools.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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