1st year of behavioral health grant shows significant impact in schools | SteamboatToday.com

1st year of behavioral health grant shows significant impact in schools

UCHealth, which joined into a partnership with the Yampa Valley Medical Center in 2017, has pledged $20 million dollars to help fund grants to nonprofits in Routt and Moffatt counties that help with the advancement of health in Northwest Colorado.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A year after Routt County schools were granted $1.3 million to support mental and behavioral health services, schools have increased staff and boosted support and access to services for both students and faculty.

The money, distributed over five years, was given to the schools through a partnership between the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation.

“The investment provided by UCHealth and the CSFF toward meeting the mental health and counseling needs of our students and families has been one of the most impactful developments the district has accomplished,” Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks said in a written statement. “This investment has changed the way our schools operate in better meeting the needs of children.” 

The Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation is contributing $100,000 per year to the Steamboat Springs School District and $25,000 annually to both the Hayden and South Routt school districts.

The grant is an extension of the $150,000 given to schools by the hospital in 2016 and 2017. According to Karen Schneider, executive director of the hospital foundation, former hospital CEO Frank May started talking with Sara Craig-Scheckman about the behavioral health funding for schools.

“It seemed like a perfect partnership to combine forces and funds to make bigger impact,” Schneider said.

The collaboration has allowed the hospital to not only continue their program, Schneider said, but double the financial investment.

The contribution from the hospital is part of the $20 million in funds committed to the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation to address community health care needs as part of UCHealth’s 2017 merger agreement.

The Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation is contributing a total of $125,000 per year.

The superintendents at each district are responsible for distributing the money based on where they identify the greatest needs at individual schools.

“These funds have positively impacted each school and student population by having these additional counselors and mental health professionals in the buildings,” Meeks said. “Our staff has also been trained to be more aware of mental health needs of our students and families.”

The data showing where the money is spent and how many students and staff are impacted is being closely tracked and reported back to the partnering foundations. This allows them to be more proactive in meeting the needs of students, Schneider said.

“What we are seeing is, that more students have access to higher level of care, and counselors are not so overwhelmed,” Schneider said.

The counselors are now better able to take care of all the students, while referring those with more complex needs to higher levels of care, she said.

In addition, the data will show specifically what the needs are — whether anxiety, depression, family issues — to help get to the root causes, Schneider said, and help more clearly define the challenges faced in the community.

As a result of the funding, students in Steamboat have more access to prevention programming, support for social/emotional interventions and therapists for intensive individual or family therapy when needed, according to Meeks.

At Yampa Valley High School, the part-time counselor was made full time, the use of restorative justice techniques was increased, and more students have access to concurrent enrollment at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.

At Steamboat Springs Middle School, one full-time counselor was added, with 275 students receiving access to higher-level care during the 2018-19 school year.

Ten staff members participated in three intensive trainings, and all staff members received additional training.

An additional part-time counselor was added at Soda Creek Elementary School, with 82 students gaining access to higher-level care.

Across the Steamboat schools, more school-based therapists were contracted through Mind Springs Health. In total, 688 students accessed what are considered Tier II services, and 98 accessed Tier III services, for the most complex situations.

In South Routt, the funding employed a part-time therapist contracted through Mind Springs. This provided access to additional counseling and support for students and their families, according to South Routt School District Superintendent Rim Watson.

A part-time case management position was also contracted through the Northwest Colorado Center for Independence.

The added resources increased the time students spent in the classroom, Watson said, as depression, anxiety and anger issues were dealt with in an appropriate therapeutic setting. In South Routt, 189 accessed Tier II services, and 19 accessed Tier III services.

It also “enabled counselors and therapists more time to provide direct services to families and less time connecting with outside agencies to find sustainable supports for services families need,” Watson said.

In the Hayden School District, a part-time counselor was contracted through Mind Springs to provide therapeutic interventions, according to Hayden Superintendent Christy Sinner. The school was also able to increase behavioral health support for students in need.

“I think it’s just a wonderful thing for our community,” Schneider said.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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