EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
MARBLE FALLS — A child struggling with mental health issues or the repercussions of some type of trauma brings those things with them when they go to school. It makes for a challenging, complex environment for the student, teachers, and administrators.
The positive results of that collaboration are rippling throughout the district and into the community.
“There are over 4,000 kids in our school district,” said Blakeley Wilbanks of the Phoenix Center. “Out here in this area and other rural areas, there are so many barriers to access (of mental health services). This collaboration helps the school district and us serve the kids and their families who need it.”
To learn more, you can attend the presentation “Addressing Mental Health Needs in Schools” from noon-1:30 p.m. Friday, May 11, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 909 Avenue D.
The program is free and open to the public. RSVP at phoenixtx.org.
The Phoenix Center is a local nonprofit organization that provides high-quality, mental health care to children and their families in the Highland Lakes through innovative programs.
Since the partnership formed, the Phoenix Center has provided a number of services to students through the district, including:
• a trauma-informed pilot program at Marble Falls Elementary School;
• individual therapy services for students in crisis;
• early childhood intervention (using play therapy and yoga/mindfulness programs);
• a fully equipped play therapy room at Head Start;
• a fully equipped sensory room at Spicewood Elementary School;
• music therapy groups at Falls Career High School, the district’s alternative discipline campus;
• parenting groups for teen parents at Falls Career;
• therapeutic outdoor education days at Candlelight Ranch;
• and trauma-informed trainings for educators as well as screening of “Paper Tigers,” a documentary film.
More than 550 MFISD teachers and administrators as well as more than 280 Head Start educators have taken part in those training programs.
These programs aren’t “feel good” things that take time away from classroom instruction; they help support classroom instruction and student learning on many levels.
According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, nearly half of the kids in the United States — more than 34 million children — have experienced one or more types of serious childhood traumas. There’s a mass of research and studies that show trauma can have several adverse effects on a child, especially in the area of brain development, which impacts learning.
Trauma can also cause behavioral issues.
“We also have some unique needs in our community,” Wilbanks said. “In Burnet County, we have nearly twice the number of child abuse cases than the state average.”
On top of that, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated the county as a “mental health professional shortage area.”
With the school district and the Phoenix Center collaborating, students who need assistance can get mental health services.
“During the presentation, we’ll give a history and some of the highlights of the partnership, but we’ll also share our vision for the future,” Wilbanks said.