Youth task force plans next year

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The 26 participants at the May 23 meeting of the Vernon County Youth Task Force heard of activities and services by the Nevada Housing Authority and Pathways/Compass Health, adopted the quarterly character words for the next school year, obtained volunteers for committee work and received an update on a video being made to explain adverse childhood experiences and promote resiliency.

After the group’s chairperson, Dr. Tricia Bridgewater called the meeting to order she asked for groups or agencies on hand to present upcoming activities.

Carol Branham, director of the Nevada Housing Authority began by speaking of the federal office of Housing and Urban Development’s “Strong Families Initiative”.

Said Branham, “Really, when you get down to it, what we’re about at the housing authority is not just a place to live but’s about the families who live there.”

She said the Strong Families Initiative is something her agency has been a part of for several years and will be again this year.

“So to get families out together, our agency is partnering with Nevada Parks and Recreation to host a resource fair and free swim on Wednesday, June 20 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Walton Park pool,” said Branham.

Next to speak were two people with Pathways/Compass Health. Children’s Services Supervisor, Rebekah Oehring, spoke of the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Rally which was held on May 30 at the Nevada Pathways office. Besides distributing information on mental health resources there were games, police dogs, fire trucks, a visit by KC Wolf and many prizes given away.

Said Oehring, “A lot of parents may have concerns and questions but don’t know where to turn; we’d like to help them find the answers they need.”

Picking up on this, Kathi Grose, a regional official with Pathways/Compass Health out of the Lee’s Summit office, distributed flyers on its school-based therapy program.

“Due to recent changes, we are now able to provide mental health services,” said Grose. “For many families, transportation is a real issue and so conducting sessions in school solves this problem and it reduces the stigma associated with therapy.”

She explained this is not meant for those in special education with an individualized education program; “such children are already being served.”

Providing a quick overview Grose said the request can begin with the family or with the school but both have to be on board and complete some paperwork authorizing and facilitating treatment.

She described some larger districts as having professional counselors on staff but for most districts, such treatment is beyond the scope of what a school counselor can handle.

“Pathways employs licensed counselors,” said Grose. First, there’s an assessment and then a comprehensive wellness plan is developed. Sessions are usually during the school day and, if appropriate, may include family members.”

As the explanatory brochure makes clear, “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”

Jodie McNeley, assistant superintendent with the Nevada R-5 school district and Kora Anderson, the district’s director of health services announced a revamped partnership with Nevada Regional Medical Center for providing free physicals for student-athletes.

“We are offering free physicals for students on June 11 from 5-8 p.m. at Truman Elementary,” said McNeley. “Kora has been instrumental in meeting with NRMC to get this all arranged.”

Added Anderson, “It’s for middle and high school students entering from grade seven through grade 12. And for everybody it’s free and it will be at Truman June 11.”

Bridgewater then called upon Oehring to give a progress update on the Show-Me Strong initiative.

This an effort by Healthy Nevada’s Mental Health Committee to introduce various concepts related to serious traumatic events experienced by children known as adverse childhood experiences.

Studies show that, without intervention, a child’s developing brain does not mature properly and the resulting adult will likely face a rougher and shorter life.

On the positive side, the group wants to inform the public about how most anyone can help overcome the damage of these experiences by developing resiliency in the child.

One way in which the Mental Health Committee seeks to do this is through the production of a video which they hope to disseminate through the local cable channel and as part of the trailer before features at Nevada’s movie theater.

Just as life is a series of positive and negative experiences, the video uses the analogy of shoes, in which people have had positive (“These shoes were dancing at her wedding.”) and negative (“These shoes were worn by mom and the kids all night in the car after dad hit mom.”).

Oehring showed the group a series of still photographs – much like a pre-visualization storyboard for a movie – interspersed with explanatory words while music played. The final video will conclude with drone footage taken of hundreds of pairs of shoes which lined the Nevada square in a recent event to promote resiliency.

Said Bridgewater, “We’re going to be working on ACES and resiliency for a year through three campaigns. I believe the next is “Be a Neighbor” which explains it only takes one to make a difference and help break the negative in a person’s life.

Turning to its Character Champion word of the quarter effort, Bridgewater briefly reviewed the first four – responsibility, respect, perseverance and honesty – and heard how the Nevada R-5 and Sheldon R-8 school districts appreciated this.

“Since this will be our last meeting until August, what should be our four character words for the next school year?” asked Bridgewater.

The group settled on respect (again) for the first quarter of September through November, responsibility for the second quarter, empathy for the third and closing with resilience for use from June through August of 2019.

Bridgewater passed around sheets asking people to sign-up for various committees related to the character champion campaign, board nominations as well as working with area schools.

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