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Providing Kids an Innovative Mental Health Program

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Karen Selim, President & CEO, Coastal Bend Community Foundation (from left); Eric Hamon, President & CEO, Driscoll Health; Mary Dale Peterson, MD, Vice President & COO of Driscoll Health; and Karen Griffith, Deputy Superintendent for Business & Support Services, CCISD. Courtesy Image
Karen Selim, President & CEO, Coastal Bend Community Foundation (from left); Eric Hamon, President & CEO, Driscoll Health; Mary Dale Peterson, MD, Vice President & COO of Driscoll Health; and Karen Griffith, Deputy Superintendent for Business & Support Services, CCISD. Courtesy Image
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Mega Doctor News

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Mental health is a nationwide issue, and a critical one in Texas, which is ranked the lowest in the nation in terms of access to mental health care, according to the 2022 report from Mental Health America.Locally, access to affordable and timely mental health care is a widespread problem across the Coastal Bend. To address the mental health crisis facing young people, Driscoll Health, Coastal Bend Community Foundation (CBCF), and Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD) are teaming up to launch a three-year pilot program at five elementary schools and one high school in the district. Coastal Bend Community Foundation initiated an $800,000 grant for the mental health pilot program. It is provided from two sources — an estate and a local family foundation — and will be paid over three years.

The pilot program will launch at Moody High School, Mireles Elementary, Montclair Elementary, Travis Elementary, Shaw Elementary, and Berlanga Elementary. The goal is to make a significant impact for the children in CCISD by creating a program where children need it.

The partnership’s pilot program will place an additional six licensed mental health professionals, including clinical social workers and licensed professional counselors (all Driscoll staff members) directly into the schools to address the mental health needs of students. In addition, Driscoll will be providing the Positive Parenting Program for families in these schools as well. This evidence-based program can improve relationships among parents and their children and help families cope with life stressors.

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The pilot program agreement was signed at a press conference Tuesday, February 21, 10 a.m., at Driscoll Children’s Hospital. Representatives from all three groups were present.

“We are seeing younger children with anxiety and emotional distress that have increased during the pandemic,” said Mary Dale Peterson, MD, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Driscoll Health. “Providing caring mental health professionals in schools to help families learn to cope will help kids regain their childhood and set them up for future success.”

“Good mental health is a key component of a successful education,” said Dr. Roland Hernandez, CCISD’s Superintendent of Schools. “We are confident that collaborations such as this will benefit our students as well as be a model for other communities seeking to support student health.”

It’s clear that providing access to mental health care professionals can have a positive impact. Over the last two years, CCISD has seen an increase in mental health needs at the high school level. In response to this, CCISD has provided each high school campus with a team of mental health professionals to provide responsive services.

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Every CCISD high school has at least five to six school counselors and one mental health professional, while the elementary campuses are staffed with at least one school counselor per campus. However, at the elementary school level, there are only eight mental health professionals to provide services for 36 elementary schools.

Schools have seen an increase in mental health and behavioral issues among younger students. The statistics on Corpus Christi elementary students are deeply concerning and the reports align with what Driscoll Health physicians see in our emergency rooms and offices.

Elementary-aged children within the city of Corpus Christi make up:

21.8% of all reports for ideations of self-harm

26.57% of all reports for ideations of making harmful threats toward another

34% of all social work referrals. (Social work referrals can be made for anxiety, depression, family issues, violence, etc.)

“Our goal is to ensure children have the right foundation for success in the future – that includes academic and emotional support,” said Dr. Peterson.

The innovative mental health pilot program fits well into the mission of the Coastal Bend Community Foundation to improve the lives of Coastal Bend families.

“We all know the devastation mental illness wreaks not only on the individual, but on their families, friends and our communities,” said Karen Selim, President and CEO, Coastal Bend Community Foundation. “We are very hopeful these targeted efforts will provide our students with needed help.”

The future will be brighter with the implementation of this pilot program.

“We are honored to partner with Driscoll Children’s Hospital to bring this important pilot program to Corpus Christi ISD, and we are grateful for the support Coastal Bend Community Foundation has shown both of our organizations,” said Superintendent Hernandez. “We look forward to seeing this program thrive and grow.”

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