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Getting schooled: Meridian’s one-on-one student services focus on behaviors & skills

Mar 11

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Monday, March 11, 2013  RssIcon

Imagine 5,000 children at hundreds of schools in 26 counties throughout the state who need help sorting out life’s challenges. These are elementary children, middle schoolers and high school teen-agers, and the issues they face run the gamut.

CARRIE ANACKER, REGIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE manager of children’s services at the Suzanne Gresham Center, a division of Meridian Health Services, covers a region that includes Madison, Delaware, Wayne, Jay, Blackford, Adams, Wells and Grant counties.

Meridian’s home, school and community-based services are necessary to get help for children with behavioral issues, mental health issues, or to keep children out of more involved treatment, perhaps even residential care.

Meridian’s behavioral clinicians enter the home or the school and work with the child, to evaluate the behavior in a real-world setting.

One student benefiting from the school program is 13-year-old Lindsay South.

“I was in depression,” Lindsay says. “I was angry and sad almost all the time. So my mom took me to counseling.”

It was Lindsay’s school principal who recommended the program at Meridian Health Services. The family was placed with Alysha Nemore, a clinical supervisor with Meridian.

“Lindsay has come a long way,” Nemore says. “She has really matured a lot, which has helped her own functioning. But she actually uses what we teach her and we can see that in her.”

On an outpatient basis, children and their families work with a behavioral clinician in the home, school and community, upward of six to 10 hours a week. Children with more severe problems enter CAPRTF, or Community Alternatives to Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities, where they receive more than 12 hours of treatment each week.

A WORKING TEAM. Dr. Meghana Bhat works closely with social workers on the geriatric psych unit.

Lindsay, who went through in-class help as well as office visits with Nemore, did have setbacks. But she and her family learned how to handle them.

Under the home, school and community-based services program, a clients’ treatment has six goals:

  • Identifying and working toward reducing symptoms
  • Functioning and living more productively in the community
  • Developing skills to manage illness
  • Achieving the level of independence that is possible
  • Identifying ways to become medically compliant
  • Developing and improving cognitive and social skills

Families, not just the children, get attention as well.

“We do a lot of working one-on-one with parents on parenting skills,” says Anacker, a former behavioral clinician. “We help them provide consistency with expectations and let the child have some boundaries.”

One true believer in the Meridian program is Stephen R. McColley, superintendent of Wes-Del Community Schools. McColley worked with a similar program when he was principal at a Green County school.

“Meridian could use me as a reference any time,” McColley says. “I cannot speak highly enough how they have been. I’ve seen their work, and its changed kids and families for the better.”

Anacker, who grew up in the area, says she loves her job and its mission.

“I truly believe in what we do here,” she said. “I’ve seen the success, and I love those small steps. Say, a family couldn’t take their child out of the house, due to behaviors, and now they can actually go to McDonald’s, sit down and enjoy a meal. To me, those are really big things.”

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