What’s happening with Berkeley County School’s Project AWARE?
Currently, Project AWARE (PA) has received 310 in school student referrals for school-based therapy. East Ridge is busy, busy, busy assisting referred students with emotional, social and academic needs.
Project AWARE has partnered with Burke Street Elementary, North Middle and Hedgesville High Schools to be a PA model school. We have hired a facilitator for these model schools to assist families and youth in need of services to help our students be as successful as possible.
We are also training adults in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to recognize signs of mental health symptoms and learn how to intervene in the case of a mental health emergency.
If you are interested in more information you may contact Joni Greenberg at email@example.com or to learn more about MHFA contact Kija Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are like me, there is a sort of excitement that begins the week of Thanksgiving break and continues until that day we return to school after the New Years holiday...the first day back at work and school. It is nothing outwardly seen, just a little "bounce in my step". I love the holidays and enjoy everything about the big 3 holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. But I am lucky... because I have these big 3 needs:wonderful house, a wonderful family, and everybody is healthy.
This is not always the case and holidays are a particularly stressful if you don't have the Big 3 of housing, family, and health. This is the case with many of our students and staff members in Berkeley County. Take a moment and consider how the big 3 holidays would change if one of your big 3 needs were not met. Its hard to have festive feelings if you don't have a home to call your own, you are facing eviction, or have no idea where you will be living next month. Many of our students don't know which parent or grandparent they will be living with from day to day. Its hard to enjoy holidays that emphasize family and significant others if you have experienced a loss of a loved one. Finally, its easy to be a "Grinch" if you don't feel good.
This is just food for thought. The next time you see someone who is not in the "Holiday Spirit", ask them how they are feeling. You never know what each person is experiencing or how it will affect them. We can all relate to loss, fear, disappointment, and sadness, although we may not be able to relate to eviction, death, or hunger. Similarly, we can all relate to how it feels to feel love and concern.
Part of our job at Project Aware is to attend community meetings and work groups to discuss needs and gaps of our student's mental health and gather resources for services available to our youth. Frequently, many services require volunteer work. Are you interested in volunteer opportunities? Here is a good resource:
1. 40 Developmental Assets - The Search Institute identified 40 individual "assets" that aid in the healthy development of young people. Our school system has adopted an asset of the month and highlights this asset here. There are several ways to volunteer at any grade level. Here are some examples:
For more information on registering to do an activity regarding the 40 Developmental Assets, contact Lori Lawson, RESA 8, email@example.com
2. Juvenile Drug Court - Young people may make mistakes. Often it is possible to change their course of direction. A great way to do this is to volunteer as a Juvenile Drug Court Mentor. Your job as a drug court mentor is to just be another adult for that student. Perhaps a text or phone call periodically, perhaps share a meal, perhaps take the student to a ball game. There is no requirement of time to be a mentor, but the rewards are great. For more information on becoming a JDC mentor, please contact Shannon Travis, Probation Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Community Meetings Open to the Public - Perhaps you are interested in getting involved more in the community, but don't know where to start. Here is one example of a meetings open to the public where you could perhaps make a difference:
Look for other ways to stay connected to the community. There are frequently community events held in downtown Martinsburg. You can also contact your school, myself, or community members.
As the parent of a child in a Berkeley County school, you may have heard of Project Aware and been thinking, "what is that?"
In 2015, Berkeley County Schools was awarded the Project Aware Grant. Berkeley County was one of 3 counties in West Virginia to receive the grant, and West Virginia was one of 23 states. The grant provides funding to increase access to menatal health services for Berkeley County students and provide education in mental health to community members in Berkeley County. During the last school year, Project Aware was able to provide students free individual and group therapy at 28 of the 32 schools in Berkeley County. This therapy occurred during the school day at the student's school so that it was not a disruption to parents and transportation was not an issue.
So far Project Aware has educated over 350 community members in Mental Health First Aid, a first aid course designed to teach the general public the signs and symptoms of common mental health issues and how to help in a mental health crisis. Project Aware has also trained the entire Martinsburg City Police Department, over 150 Berkeley County Schools staff, all of Berkeley County School Pre-K staff, and members of Berkeley County Sherriff's Department in Mental Health First Aid.
Perhaps you have received word about a Project Aware Survey taking place through WVU. This is an annual, completely confidential survey that takes place in secondary schools. The results of this survey are used to calculate needs and gaps among Berkeley County School students and allows Project Aware to provide solutions to these problems. While pariticpation is voluntary, the completion of the survey is critical in identifying ways to help Berkeley County students.
So, now that you have background information on Project Aware, you may be thinking, "Ok, how do I find out more information?"
If you have questions about your student receiving therapy at school or mental health concerns about your student, please talk to your student's school counselor. Counselors are very willing to talk to parents over the phone and in person and can answer any questions you may have concerning school based therapy for your student, should you have concerns about their mental health. Mental health concerns in youth are extremely common and can often be helped quickly and easily. It is important for you to voice any concerns you may have to your student's counselor, teacher, nurse, or administrator.
If you would like to sign up to be a Mental Health First Aider, you can register for classes by going to this link:
Classes are 8 hrs and provide CEU credits for nursing, social work, and law enforcement. They are completely free and typically held at Ramer Center in Martinsburg.
If you have any concerns about your child taking the Project Aware Survey, please contact Kija Wilson, 304-263-4681, who will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Due to the large number of suicides of soldiers returning from combat, the armed forces of the United States adopted a program called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) as a way to teach fellow soldiers how to intervene when someone is suicidal. Each military organization has a Suicide Prevention Coordinator who is responsible for training soldiers and their families in ASIST and connecting soldiers at risk with military organizations and mental health resources. While the military has adopted this program, ASIST is geared toward the general public, ages 16 and older. This past week, I was given the opportunity through the DC Army National Guard to attend the ASIST T4T Instructor course in order to be a certified instructor who can train individuals in the 2-day ASIST course.
If you have taken the Mental Health First Aid course, you think of this class as first aid for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis or illness. ASIST would be like the CPR that accompanies the Mental Health First Aid Course. The two classes are very complimentary. ASIST teaches the caregiver skills to have a successful intervention with someone who is suicidal. The goal of ASIST is to keep the person at risk "safe for now". The fundamental idea with ASIST is that the suicidal person has 3 choices; suicide, life, or stay safe for now. Choosing life while in crisis is often too overwhelming for the person at risk, but choosing a plan that is safe for now, may be possible.
I plan on offering a 2 day ASIST course during this school year. It is a 2-day course that teaches a roadmap, the "Pathway to Assisting Life" (PAL), that presents a structured roadmap in suicide intervention. The course is 80% participant based and provides ample time to practice intervention skills. Realistic scenarios range from a suicidal person who does not have a plan and has vague ideas about suicide to someone standing on a bridge ready to jump. Although the scenarios can be intimidating, they leave the student confident and prepared should an emergency arise.
For more information, check out www.livingworks.net.
WV Project AWARE ends this school year with great success! For the first time in Berkeley County, school counselors, staff members and failies had the option of referring students to therapy in their school buildings. WV AWARE contracted with EastRidge Health Systems and WV Counseling Services Youth Advocacy Program to provide social and emotional therapy to students in need of such assistance. For years, school counselors have provided a Comprehensive School Counseling Program, along with school duties while meeting the ongoing emotional needs of their students. Often times, we felt there just wasn't enough time in the day to get everything done. This year with Medicaid, CHIPS and Project AWARE funding, students could receive ongoing therapy at their school without any cost to the family. By year's end, Berkeley County Schools had referred 239 students for services. Students have the option of continuing their therapy over the summer at several of our schools or the office of the provider.
Be on the lookout for this program next year...it will continue to be offered. Call your child's school counselor to inquire about services for your child.
Have a great summer!!