Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2001

Students gain access to mental health care

September 6, 2001

Elementary school children in Eudora now have the same access to mental health care as their middle school peers.

The Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center in Lawrence added a WRAP specialist, Tiffany Keenan, to work with Nottingham and Eudora West elementary schools. WRAP stands for Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities.

"I think the main benefit to the school is coordinating between existing social work and counseling programs and the WRAP program that is a liaison between the mental health community in Lawrence," Keenan said. "We try to fill in any gaps that aren't being met."

With elementary school children, Keen said the mental health focus is generally on keeping children doing well in school and working with their families.

"You know, families sometimes have a tendency to have the same problems repeat," Keenan said. "We want to get in with the child in elementary school."

Because she works with children ranging in age from 5 to 12, Keenan said she deals with different aspects of mental health, depending on age. But social skills play a big part.

"We want to get in there and help with the bullying especially," Keenan said. "There's always a bully."

School districts have responded differently to incidents of school violence related to bullying that have made national headlines in the past several years.

"I really found that this school district is extremely competent," Keenan said. "I don't think they're anxious about it, but I know it is addressed. I don't think everyone's just waiting for it to happen, either. There's a heightened awareness."

The WRAP program also aims to work with children's behavior in the classroom to make the situation conducive for all students to learn.

"We want to help the kids with their social skills," Keenan said.

WRAP referrals can come from a school counselor, social worker, school employee or someone in the community. Parents then must consent for their child to participate.

Keenan's position at the elementary schools is financed through a grant with the potential for renewal on a yearly basis.

"We provide statistics about how many children we see," Keenan said. "We don't specify their name, We work on their age, their adjustment from the beginning to the end of the year. 'Is the climate of the school a better place?' is the question we have to ask ourselves."

The grant, given to Bert Nash, allowed for the addition of nine workers.

"The school districts are able to provide what they can in terms of supplies and space," Keenan said. "We ask them for whatever they can offer us. We are individual in terms of getting our supplies and accessing things for the children. We don't want to limit their budget with our presence."

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