PLATTSBURGH — The focus on childhood mental health has increased dramatically since the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 students and six adult staff members from Sandy Hook Elementary School dead in December.
Regional caregivers have been addressing childhood access to mental-health services for years and believe they are providing critical services that have been on the minds of many since Newtown.
In a joint effort between Behavioral Health Services North and Champlain Valley Education Services, the Safe Schools/Health Students project has allowed for on-campus access to mental-health counseling in three schools in Clinton County and another two in Essex County.
And those numbers are continuing to grow.
“The Newtown tragedy has brought this issue (of childhood mental health) to light, but this project has addressed student mental-health needs in a way I don’t think we’ve ever seen or done in our schools before,” said Henry Goldenberg, clinical director for the Behavioral Health Services North Childhood Services programs.
“This (program) has been great news for the community and has achieved a lot of success.”
Safe Schools/Health Students, a federally funded program that includes such related topics as education on bullying and adventure-based learning, was initiated regionally as a pilot study to gauge the effectiveness of school-based mental-health clinics.
“We’ve partnered with BHSN (Behavioral Health Services North) for five years now and are providing mental-health services along with violence prevention, drug-use prevention and emotional-development programs,” said Wanda McQueen, project administrator for the Safe Schools/Health Students program.
“We wanted to see if these could be sustainable programs once the (federal) funding came to an end (after the five-year pilot program),” she added.
“With the help of BHSN, we’ve put together a school-based, mental-health model that has been extremely successful and can be sustained (financially).”