Grant to aid communities in serving at-risk youth

By SARA ARTHURS
Staff Writer
When a child is at risk of harming themselves or others, professionals need the training and know how to help them. A newly announced grant will allow area mental health and developmental disabilities professionals more training, as well as offer respite care for families.
The “Strong Families, Safe Communities” grant from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the amount of $162,713 was awarded to Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio, Inc., in partnership with other agencies in Allen, Auglaize, Hancock, Hardin, Putnam and Van Wert counties. The goal is to assist community partnerships in serving youths at risk of harming themselves or others due to a mental illness or developmental disability.
It’s one of seven such grants awarded around the state, totaling $1.4 million this year. Combined with grants awarded last year, the state has awarded a total of $5 million to agencies in 46 counties.
In northwestern Ohio, the project will expand the after-hours crisis response team, the Critical Incident Stress Management protocol for dealing with traumatic events, and respite options for children and youth who need them.
Precia Stuby, executive director of the Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, said mental health care for children must acknowledge that “children are not small adults” and need treatment that is developmentally appropriate.
“They require a different approach,” said Josh Ebling, CEO of Family Resource Center.
Ebling said Family Resource Center suffered from budget cuts several years ago. The grant will allow professionals to help children at the “most vulnerable points of their life,” Ebling said. Family Resource Center plans to train people from all walks of life. Clergy and nursing staff, for example, might help children after a crisis such as the death of a classmate.
This will allow them to recruit more people so they can “respond at a moment’s notice,” Ebling said.
Family Resource Center of Northwest Ohio, Inc. has a crisis response team of licensed clinicians throughout the geographical region served.
The Critical Incident Stress Management Team, managed by the Bluffton Police Department and situated under the Allen County Emergency Management Agency, will be expanded. Family Resource Center expects to train 12 to 15 additional staff members in Critical Incident Stress Management response for school crisis and application with children.
Craig Kupferberg, assistant superintendent with Findlay City Schools, said the Critical Incident Stress Management team made a difference after the suicide of a young Findlay boy earlier this year. Kupferberg said not only the boy’s classmates but adults at the school were in need of help and support. He was so impressed with the approach he decided to train to become a member of the Critical Incident Stress Management team himself.
Bluffton Police Chief Rick Skilliter is the coordinator for the regional Critical Incident Stress Management team. He said it brings “a coordinated effort” to handling a crisis, allowing people with specialized training to step in.
Part of the team’s task is to identify teachers who need help and emotional support, since it is teachers that students often turn to for comfort. A student who needs individual attention could be taken aside to talk with someone trained in helping.
Skilliter said the team fills a need but “training is obviously going to be key” in expanding it, and this grant will pay for training.
Another goal is to expand respite opportunities. These are important when a situation is “just too volatile” for a child to stay with his or her parents on that particular night, but may not need to be hospitalized. Sometimes the parents just need a break and there are limited shelter opportunities available, Ebling said.
John Martin, director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, said he is seeing a need for respite care across the state.
Martin said the “Strong Families, Safe Communities” grants were developed after some nationally publicized incidents involving troubled teens. Gov. John Kasich brought together the state departments of Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health and Addiction Services to look at whether Ohio could better handle such incidents when they occur, and hopefully prevent them from occurring.
Martin said communities were encouraged to “use their creativity” when applying for the grants. Two parents were involved in reviewing the grant applications.
Martin said many children have both mental health and developmental disabilities issues. Connie Ament, superintendent for the Hancock County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said she is seeing this trend and about 80 percent of children with autism have a mental health diagnosis.
When deciding which grants to award, the state agencies were looking to see multiple systems and multiple communities involved, Martin said. Only one-third of applicants received grants.
Martin said grant recipients from throughout Ohio will periodically meet to talk about what is working and what isn’t. Agencies that received “Strong Families, Safe Communities” grants last year have held discussions and more are planned. Martin said the grant to the six northwestern Ohio counties was one of the largest regions coming together to address the issue.
Arthurs: 419-427-8494 Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs

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