There are too many times in school settings where students who have behavior issues are permanently labeled as "bad kids" for the rest of their academic careers. Interventions are not attempted, issues continue, and disruptions plague not only that student but also the classroom.
To help combat these recurring problems, ARCHS receives funding from the Missouri Department of Social Services to provide behavioral health services (crisis intervention, parent training, evaluation, counseling, tutoring, day treatment, and more) to support students and their families. Training is also provided to school staffs on how to assess students for behavioral problems and serious emotional disorders and how to make referrals for support.
ARCHS has contracted with the Amanda Luckett Murphy Hopewell Center for the past several years to provide the services. For the first and second quarters of this fiscal year, over 120 students have been served. Of those students served, 93 percent have remained in school.
"We identify children who have behavior or mental disturbances, assess them, find out what issues there are and hopefully reduce classroom disruptions and attendance issues," said Regina Askew, Director of School-Based Programs at Hopewell Center. "We help the school environment in addition to the student. One of the biggest issues we handle is to educate the school staff on symptoms and behaviors to look for."
Hopewell serves four schools under ARCHS' funding: Laclede Elementary, Columbia Elementary, Langston Middle School, and Northwest Academy of Law.
"We have the schools tell us they are glad we are there because they aren't equipped to handle many of the mental health issues," Askew said. "When we talk to the students, we're not talking at them or as if they are sick. We talk with them in general discussion to see how we can assist them in getting better or how to get them to behave in school."
Askew said typically after interventions are made, the next step would be to see if the school can make academic accommodations. If issues still persist, then evaluations are done to see if psychiatric help is needed. Medication is always used as a last resort, Askew said.
"We spend time at home with the children also to see what that part of their life is like and identify what resources may help if there is a situation," Askew said. "What's critical is establishing a relationship with the parents so we can help bridge a gap between parents and the schools."
Askew said her agency is noticing a benefit to everyone involved, including healthier school and home environments. She said the students involved are receiving "life-changing experiences" that are improving the quality of their lives.
Hopewell Center provides mental health support to St. Louis area school systems, from early childhood through high school. This promotes early detection and treatment of psychiatric disorders, and educates school staff on ways to deal with mental health issues in the classroom.
Early intervention can disrupt the negative course of some mental illnesses and may lessen long-term disability, Askew said.