May is Children’s mental health month, a time to shine a light on mental health and mental illness, as well as treatments and services that are available in your community.
At the Barber National Institute, I consider one of our greatest mental health resources the children’s partial hospitalization program. Back in 1998, we realized that a number of our children had both intellectual disabilities as well as mental health disorders. We determined a program was needed that could help to reduce challenging behaviors through a combination of behavioral treatment, pharmalogical management, and changes in environmental structure.
We planned to provide functionally-based intensive intervention in the areas of communication, self-help, and social and emotional skills, thereby facilitating age-appropriate interactions. We would also provide parents with information in training in the effective methodologies to minimize the impact of the disorder on the family. We applied and secured our initial license to offer a children’s acute partial hospitalization program, becoming one of the first school-based partial programs in Pennsylvania.
Our current program serves students who are enrolled in our approved private school. Following referral and acceptance into the program, a psychiatrist observes the student and consults with staff on a weekly basis. A clinical psychologist and mental health specialists are also part of the classroom team. Every 15 days, the psychiatrist and team members meet with families to update them on the student’s progress as well as to discuss any concerns in the home. When the student has met the treatment goals, a discharge plan is developed with the family to assure the continuity of supports, both in the school and at home.
This program has made an invaluable difference for both our children and our families. In most cases, in-patient treatment is avoided and the children are able to remain at home with their families. Although our numbers are small (only 20 children are served at any given time through MH Partial) the intensity of the services yields very positive results. We plan to continue this component of our approved private school program as long as the need exists.
As you continue through the month of May, know that there are resources available to you or a loved one, both in your community and online. Below, I’ve shared some great tools from the National Council of Behavioral Health. Please share other great resources you may have below!