Atchison Community Health Clinic is launching access to behavioral health services in the public systems throughout the county, initiative leaders are Superintendent Dr. Susan Myers, USD 409, Superintendent Dr. Andrew Gaddis, USD 377, and ACHC Director Stevie Durkin.

Starting this month, pupils and students enrolled in the public schools throughout Atchison County will have access to behavioral health services in the school buildings.

Initial implementation of the service starts this week in USD 409 facilities in Atchison and during the month of March at USD 377 in Effingham. The service comes by way of a federally funded Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services grant administered through Atchison Community Health Clinic.

ACHC Director Stevie Durkin said the Atchison Community Health Clinic applied for the grant in 2018. The clinic was subsequently awarded the amount of $285,000. The funding was received in November of 2018.

The grant funding made it possible for the clinic to hire its first full time behavioral health provider. The grant award brings a way to increase access to the licensed, clinically trained, behavioral health specialist in the clinic by providing the services to the public schools throughout the county.

The wheels were put in motion to provide the services after the two school districts signed off on their respective memorandums of understanding with the ACHC. USD 409 Board of Education members took action to enter the agreement at their Dec. 10, 2018 meeting. Likewise, the 377 Board of Education approved the same at their meeting in January.

There is no cost to either school district, Durkin said. Private or Medicaid health insurance providers will cover the costs of services provided to students and pupils. Services provided to the uninsured will be on an income based sliding fee scale.

Superintendent Susan Myers of Atchison Public Schools USD 409, and Superintendent Andrew Gaddis of 377 Atchison County Community Schools, agreed the initiative will likely bring additional awareness and mental health enrichment that will extend beyond the students to families and staff.

Myers said it is removing barriers because services are provided during school missed appointments and a lack of transportation will not be an issue.

Durkin, Gaddis and Myers all agreed the services will be in private settings in each of the school buildings of each district. There will be consent forms for parents or guardians to submit before the services are rendered. Thirty-minute sessions comprise the appointments in effort to reduce time out of the classroom. Confidentiality of any communication about the individual’s need for the services will apply.

Children’s needs can be met and corrected when mechanisms are learned in effort to bring resources to the child early on, Gaddis said. It will be a learning piece for teachers and counselors to communicate more about behavioral health and how to identify specific needs.

Durkin said he is hopeful the services can expand in time to include abilities to bring clinical social workers into the schools. Clinicians in the schools are in tune with what kids are facing in life. The services will be another avenue to tie additional resources to the kids so there will be more successful outcomes by increasing contact with the kids.

Access to mental health services for students was one of the needs identified by parents, patrons and community members as the result of a recent survey conducted by Unity in the Community through USD 409.

For more information contact Durkin at the ACHC at 913-367-4879.

Mary Meyers can be reached at mary.meyers@atchisonglobenow.com

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