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Healthy Living: Clinicians in schools help address behavioral health

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 10:07 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Every person has dealt with stressors since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but none as apparent as students that had to adjust to unprecedented changes this past school year. Organizations like Volunteers of America are partnering up to continue providing behavioral health services to students right at school.

“We’re at 12 sites in total with us at nine sites and them at three, and hoping over time to expand even more so that we can really be where kids are,” said Sherrie Wilson Hinshaw, president and CEO of the volunteer organization.

The organization, Anchorage School District and Providence Medical Group Behavioral Health Services are working together to provide behavioral health resources to children, families and even teachers and clinicians in the schools.

Laura Jorgensen, manager for school-based services with the VOA, said children have been exposed to various emotions due to them adjusting to the numerous changes this past year. Hence, their goal of having clinicians in school will bring the service directly to students in need.

“We don’t want parents having to have to leave a job, take time off in the afternoon to take their, their child to a provider in an environment that they don’t even know,” Jorgensen said.

Julie Falle, a mental health counselor at Tyson Elementary School, offers that outlet for students in her jurisdiction. She’s there to provide crisis intervention and care but to also lend support to families. Falle said every day is different, but the whole idea is to make behavioral health in schools more accessible.

“On a daily basis, you know, it could be anywhere from you know, negative peer interactions and needing some basic coping skills to just another positive adults who is able to apply some attention,” Falle said.

She added that parents should let kids know they’re available to them because a part of staying connected is creating intentional time.

“Even if it’s like those minutes, right before bedtime, or they’re already late for bed, and it’s going to be like too late anyways, like make it happen,” Falle said. “Use your chores and things that you do on a daily basis include your children and just play, have fun connect with them.”

Every Volunteers of America affiliate looks different. In Alaska, it’s entirely youth-focused.

Click here to learn more about the organization and the resources and services that are available.

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