When I began my career in our industry, I was told that developing a prevention model for students was no more than a pipe dream. Since our mental health systems were completely reactionary (after the crisis) the funding and programming to intervene early was almost non-existent.
The funding was quite limited at the time, but I believed we needed different answers to the problems our youth were facing. At the same time, Lakeside was in relationship with the juvenile justice system and the office of children and youth. In other words, students were already identified to be in some level of crisis before our systems provided different options for their intervention.
As those systems reduced funding and access to services, Lakeside began to establish direct relationships with school districts, which led to the formation of 4 schools, a full in-school counseling program, mobile support services, and relationships with 35 school districts. Today, over 8,000 regional students receive educational and clinical services, which have prevented a host of issues in their lives and given them new opportunities for success.
Our schools, and many of the districts we serve, are trained to handle brain dysregulation with students so they can create healthier and neurologically informed schools. This training allows them to handle students’ behaviors with approaches that are effective to prevent further issues that are destructive. Teachers and administrators are more comfortable in their role and whole school buildings are being trained to help students feel safer, better understood, and more in control of their emotions and behaviors.
Even when the public systems of care are financially and practically stretched beyond their capacity, so many of our regional schools have stepped up, secured grant funding, and created some of their own programs. They are truly working to prevent the decline of unhealthy and dangerous behaviors that could threaten the physical, emotional, and relational health of their schools.
I recognize there is much more to do, but we’re working as a community to prevent the issues we experience here at Lakeside related to the mental health crisis. We’re creating interventions earlier in the lives of thousands of students. What I was told could not be done is now in motion and moving towards a strong prevention model in our entire region.
Models like ours can and need to be replicated all throughout our country. Schools are in a unique position to monitor the needs of our students nationwide. If we think more about prevention, identify needs earlier, and provide the care and support our students need, we can reduce the number of students who are unable to continue their education and live productively, and help turn the devastating statistics around.
A caring, supportive, and effective prevention model with the right values, resources, and committed professionals can make a huge difference as we work towards a true prevention model of healing for our youth.