Call Toll Free: 866-306-2647 Bill Pay

  Search
Search Blog

Meridian in the News

How Muncie is addressing outbursts in school

Feb 15

Written by:
Wednesday, February 15, 2017  RssIcon

from The StarPress

MUNCIE, Ind. — In an elementary school classroom, Nancy Scott helped a student with spelling by tapping the desk. The soft sound was a reminder to pay attention and listen to the word the teacher was reading.

For some students, who could otherwise be labeled as having "behavior issues," it's as simple as that to keep them focused. And through Meridian Health Service's new navigator program in Muncie Community Schools, Scott was there solely to figure out what that child needed to stay on track.

In August, Meridian started dedicating behavioral clinicians to work full time in MCS buildings, at no cost to the district. The idea was that a professional would be in the school to help manage behavior-related disruptions, to both lighten the load for school counselors and compliment their work.

The clinicians in the schools are called navigators and, rather than meeting with a student in an office, their job is to be working with them side by side in a classroom to build skills and learn appropriate behaviors.

"It's just really important that students know you are there and you want success for them," said Scott, who now coordinates the program but still fills in as a substitute navigator. "They knew they were going to get some one-on-one attention."

At first, the new program started in five schools, but six months later navigators are in every school except Grissom and Longfellow elementary schools, said practice manager Jennifer Lombard.

Meridian's director of children's services, Heidi Monroe, estimates by partnering with MCS, Meridian reaches 125-140 more children. So far organizers estimate MCS students have received 3,000 hours of direct service. And often, navigators are able to get a student back in class sooner than would otherwise be possible.

For example, Lombard said, if a student makes a threat of harming a classmate or themselves they are immediately referred to Meridian. Typically, a parent would be called, potentially have to leave work, and the child would have to go to the Suzanne Gresham Center.

But with the navigators, they can help gather information, confer with one of Meridian's licensed therapists and help the school decide if the student can go back to class. Maybe it was an elementary school child who didn't really know what they were saying, Lombard said.

Since August, 67 percent of students screened for suicide or homicide risk were able to return to class, Meridian reported.

Often the root of an outburst comes from something a student is experiencing outside of school, Scott said, and navigators have time which teachers don't have to explore that root cause. She and Lombard said elementary students frequently deal with family issues, while at the high school level they might deal with homelessness, domestic violence or even an unexpected pregnancy.

Then, to have to worry about school, "That's a lot to put on a kid," Lombard said.

Local schools are seeing more students with behavioral issues now compared to maybe 20 years ago, Lombard acknowledged. She suggested the changing culture in Muncie and what children are exposed to could be having an effect.

"I think the drug problem in Muncie has something to do with it... living in poverty, unfortunately," Lombard said. "The city itself has changed and seen an increase in violence and drugs."

Meridian was already offering services to clients after school or at home, but the idea to have a consistent person who school officials could get to know and lean on came from Muncie Schools' recent strategic planning process, Lombard said. One goal that was discussed was MCS increasing its mental health services.

"We help build better communities by helping strengthen children’s skill sets," Monroe said. "Those children are going to grow up, I want them to grow up and be successful adults, I don’t want them to grow up and be in the criminal justice or the prison system. If we can help them make better choices and learn better skills, we have a better future, and a better community."

Tags:
Categories:
Location: Blogs Parent Separator News

Email, Magazine and News Sign-up

We invite you to sign up to receive special communication from us. This includes email, magazine and news, highlighting the Meridian Health Services events and programs, as well as other special announcements.