Going Above and Beyond: KRCC’s School-Based Services

Mindy MillerNews

KRCC provides school-based therapy to meet the needs of children, families, and schools throughout the Kentucky River Region.

by Mindy Miller, KRCC Multimedia Writer

For most parents, the start of a new school year often presents a new set of challenges, especially as the family tries to let go of the summer-break mindset and return to the everyday routine of back-to-school activities.

This can be a stressful and anxious time for children, according to Michelle Dixon, KRCC’s program director of school-based services.

“Starting a new school year and the challenges of school in and of itself can be nerve-racking,” Dixon said.

Many students in the region also often have to adjust to new, larger schools. In Perry County, for example, West Perry Elementary has opened, which is a consolidation of A.B. Combs, Chavies, and Willard elementary schools.

“There is a real need for us in the schools, because so many of the schools don’t have social workers or guidance counselors who can do the therapy we do,” Dixon noted. “It’s a blessing for us to be there and to help each child grow and succeed.”

KRCC employs 31 school-based therapists throughout the eight-county, Kentucky River Region.

These therapists provide counseling and support for a wide range of issues affecting today’s youth, including ADHD, autism, behavioral and conduct disorders, discipline problems, as well as bullying, suicide prevention, substance abuse, and trauma.

It seems that more and more children are in need of these services, according to therapist Tanya Moore, who has seen her client list at Lee Elementary School grow from 15 to nearly 50 students over the course of a year.

“These days are very busy, but I love it,” Moore said, who works with children in grades K-5.

“I’ve been very welcomed by the principal and the guidance counselor,” she continued. “They’ve made sure I have everything I need to work with, including an office, and the teachers are also very thoughtful about when I have to get children from class.”

That partnership is crucial, Dixon noted, in order for everyone – the client, teacher, parents, and clinician – to work towards the same goal.

“Our therapists are needed not just for the services they provide, but for the emotional support and stability they bring,” Dixon explained. “When you’re a teacher in a classroom of over 20 students, it’s hard to focus on the needs of just one. That’s where we come in, because we’re trained to handle that aspect of things and help the school meet the child’s needs.”

In addition, access to in-school therapy makes things easier for parents, who might not have adequate transportation or time off from work to take their child to an outpatient appointment.

If there are other needs outside of therapy – basic needs or problems with a specific class, the therapist can connect the family to other resources via the aid of KRCC case managers and CSAs (Community Support Associates).

“Many of our therapists are parents themselves, so they understand what any parent might go through and are aware of what’s involved in the decisions they have to make,” Dixon said. “We’re with them (the parents) all along the way – whatever they need.”

Dixon added that it’s important for the therapists to establish themselves as part of the school community by participating in school functions and special events, because it makes them more approachable to students and their parents.

“We also want to have consistency, too, so that once a child goes from middle school to high school, their therapy will continue,” she said.

The long summer break and breaks for fall, Christmas, and spring present challenges for school-based therapy, Dixon said, because they disrupt services, but KRCC’s Summer Splash and Sapling Center programs make it possible to continue reaching clients during such times.

“You don’t have to be a client to go to the Sapling Center, but you do for Summer Splash,” Dixon pointed out. “These programs are an extra step to help children and young adults reach their goals.”

For Moore, self-referrals are becoming more common, especially as more parents and teachers are aware of her presence in the school. And she said she keeps her schedule somewhat flexible so that she sees a child whenever she’s needed.

“I can’t say enough good things about the people we work with whether it’s the custodial staff, bus drivers, or teachers,” said Dixon. “They are all in the business of helping the kids, and they see us as an extension of that and we appreciate it. That’s the mindset we want to keep.”

When it comes to accessing services, Moore makes it simple.

“Make that phone call,” she said. “Call the office at your child’s school. The staff knows I’m here and they know the services we offer. All a parent has to do is call KRCC or the school office and they will connect them with a school-based counselor.”

Ultimately, the goal is to provide adequate services to meet every child’s individual needs. Making an appointment is an important first step.

“Families can go to the school and begin paperwork, or they can go to their county’s outpatient in the evening and do it after school,” Dixon said, adding that parents should be sure to bring along their health insurance card.

For more information about KRCC’s school-based services or to schedule an appointment with a therapist, call Program Director Michelle Dixon at 606-436-5761, ext. 7338 or call your child’s school office.