United Way, Southwestern Energy Fund Mental Health Program in Schools

A charity clay shoot fundraiser hosted earlier this year by Southwestern Energy and the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley will help to fund a much-needed program in the Ohio Valley — the Expanded School Mental Mental Health Program.

The Expanded School Mental Health Program is a program provided by Youth Services System Inc., a United Way Agency. Coordinators work alongside school counselors and administrators to plan for necessary school-wide prevention and early intervention services. The program consists of drug and alcohol prevention, antiviolence, suicide prevention and life skills. Coordinators are able to identify at-risk students and refer them for additional treatment as needed.

YSS has been providing Expanded School Mental Health (ESMH) Services for the last three years, according to Jill Eddy, YSS director of Community Based Services, but funding announced today is helping to expand the program.

“We have offered ESMH Programs in five middle schools including Oak Glen, Brooke, Triadelphia, Moundsville and Long Drain throughout the Northern Panhandle with funding that we receive through Bureau of Behavioral Health. With the support of United Way and Southwestern Energy, we have been able to expand our services into four elementary schools including Brooke Intermediate South, Steenrod, Central and Long Drain,” Eddy said.

“Expanded School Mental Health (ESMH) offers multi-tiered support system aimed at improving student success (attendance, behavior and grades). Our services include a full continuum of prevention, early intervention and treatment. Prevention and early intervention programs include Too Good for Drugs, Second Step and Mind-Up Mindfulness Meditation. They work alongside school counselors to connect students to more intensive services like evaluation and therapy if needed. Our coordinators are housed within schools and are able to coordinate needed prevention services for the entire school as well as assist with needed faculty training.

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“Serving as a resource for the parents is another priority for our coordinators. We have assisted parents in accessing medical care, housing/utility assistance and transportation. We recognize that families may have experienced trauma creating additional stressors like health problems, addiction, homelessness and/or unemployment; this impacts children. By addressing the social and emotional needs of students and connecting families to needed support, it is our hope that the student’s overall school experience will be positive,” Eddy added.

The Southwest Appalachia Charity Clay Shoot, held earlier this year, raised $80,000 for the United Way. Amy Dobkin, community relations manager for Southwestern Energy, worked with staff on choosing a program that would have a large impact on the Upper Ohio Valley and address pressing issues the community is facing.

“Giving back is a cornerstone of our community outreach program, and ensuring we are making a positive impact where our employees work and live is important to us,” said Dobkin. “We are aware of the challenges that students face, and are glad to partner with the United Way and Youth Services Systems to provide the support and the tools that will help meet the needs of local students.”

“Because of the incredible work Southwestern Energy put into this event, we were able to fund a program that faces the majority of the issues that our youth are facing,” said United Way Executive Director Jessica Rine.  “Getting into the schools to provide this evidence based programming is a vital for the future of children in the upper Ohio Valley.”