Trauma Informed Schools are coming

The summer months are going fast and school is about to start, which means Trauma Informed Schools will soon be here. Made possible by funding from the Washington County Behavioral Health Board, this initiative is a partnership among all six public school districts in Washington County, Ohio Valley Educational Service Center, Washington-Morgan Community Action Head Start, and Life & Purpose Behavioral Health.

This fall, school-based prevention, assessment, and treatment services will be provided for children and adolescents at risk for mental illness or substance use disorders at all educational levels from pre-school through grade 12. Typically, these are students struggling with multiple adverse life events, such as abuse, neglect, domestic violence, alcohol or drug abuse in the family, death in the family, or other traumas that affect their ability to learn and maintain themselves in the classroom. This initiative will equip all school personnel with the knowledge about the impact of trauma and the tools to work with those challenges we face daily in the school setting.

On June 13 we began the initiative by providing Courageous Connections Training to case managers at Community Action of Washington County. Courageous Connections is a strength- based, trauma informed training that focuses on building strong connections with youth while meeting the developmental needs of the traumatized child that can be understood through the Native American Child rearing philosophy of the Circle of Courage. This developmental model recognizes the four universal needs: belonging, mastery, independence and generosity, which are the key to a child’s successful functioning. When these needs are not met, or the Circle is broken, kids will struggle. Each training will be evaluated by all participants and the results of the evaluation will be reviewed to determine the overall benefit. By all accounts, the training on June 13 was well received with comments such as “All this knowledge can and will be implemented going forward with my case management practice,” and “this training will help me have a better understanding of reasons for people’s actions.”

August begins our training of over 800 school personnel on the 10 Principles of Trauma Informed Schools. This training will provide the knowledge needed to understand the impact of trauma by reviewing the definition of trauma, how it impacts our brain and body, and subsequently how that impacts school functioning. The training will provide numerous brain-friendly, trauma-sensitive interventions that teachers can easily and effectively implement in the classroom throughout the school day. Everyone, including bus drivers, maintenance personnel, teachers, and administrators will receive this training which creates a common trauma informed language across all staff and a way to collaboratively support the needs of our children. Additionally, this training will provide a foundation for other school-based initiatives, such as school based mental health programs and the PAX Good Behavior Game.

By October, we will have approximately 300 school personnel trained and ready to implement trauma informed classrooms. To ensure longevity of this project, schools will also have access to consulting services regarding what was learned in the training to help troubleshoot problems and share successes. By May 2019 all school personnel will have been trained.

At the start of the school year 2018-2019, Life & Purpose Behavioral Health will be providing mental health treatment in four of Washington County’s six school districts through both mental health day treatment and traditional outpatient therapy programs.

We are excited to have such a strong mental health presence in the Washington County School districts and look forward to addressing the challenges faced by students that impair their school and life experiences.

Douglas Pfeifer MA, LPCC-S, is the chief executive officer of Life & Purpose Behavioral Health. Life & Purpose Behavioral Health is a contract agency of the Washington County Behavioral Health Board and provides a wide array of community mental health and addiction services to Washington County. Look to our website lifeandpurposebehavioralhealth.com for further information about our agency and what we can provide for the community.

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