Routt County schools receive funding for mental and behavioral health resources | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County schools receive funding for mental and behavioral health resources

Sara Craig-Scheckman talks about the work her foundation has done in Steamboat Springs and the surrounding area. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Over the next five years, schools in Routt County will receive over $1.3 million to support mental and behavioral health resources.

The funding comes through a partnership between the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and the Craig-Scheckman Family Foundation.

“Our kids are dealing with a lot,” said Kristi Brown. “Our kids are showing up to school with a lot of weight and baggage on their shoulders.”

Brown is both a YVMC board trustee and the health and wellness coordinator for Hayden and South Routt school districts. She said it was very clear, based on a community needs health assessment, that behavioral health was a top priority, and it made sense to invest in the schools.

Frank May, CEO of YVMC, agrees.

“We need to get kids thinking about how to keep themselves healthy, and help them through challenges,” May said.

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The YVMC and YVMC Foundation will contribute $100,000 per year to the Steamboat Springs School District and $25,000 annually to both the Hayden and South Routt districts. The grant is an extension of the $150,000 given to schools by the hospital in 2016 and 2017.

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 the 2017 merger agreement.

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

Sara Craig-Scheckman, the foundation’s executive director, said the grant fits perfectly with their Youth Advocacy Project and mission to partner with other organizations to improve the lives of youth in the Yampa Valley, especially those who are marginalized or with special needs.

The challenges vary across different parts of the county, Craig-Scheckman noted, and mental and behavioral health struggles cross all socioeconomic levels. Divorce and other family issues, substance use disorders, mental health, poverty and trauma affect a wide range of the population, and some families are very good at hiding it.

When they come to school, kids need to be ready to learn, Craig-Scheckman said, and teachers need to be able to teach.

"Schools have had to address the social-emotional needs to be able to educate," she added.

With funding uncertain year to year, Craig-Scheckman and May now hope the five-year commitment can provide more stability and job security for positions including counselors, therapists and social workers and a foundation for a funding agreement beyond the next five years.

"We hope to make something meaningful and create a much more stable situation" for schools and the people they employ, May said.

May and Craig-Scheckman also stress the importance of involving parents and families and providing support for those families.

"As a school district, we are more aware of the social-emotional health needs of students, families and staff," said Steamboat Superintendent Brad Meeks in a news release. "It's our goal to have full-time, trained mental health therapists available at each of our schools as well as maintaining mental health training for our employees."

Brown noted how important it is for students to build consistent relationships with the adults with whom they confide. She said the goal for Hayden and Soutt Routt districts is to see an increase in service providers, additional support and connections with caring adults, more conversation around mental health and substance use to reduce stigma and greater health and educational equity.

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

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