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Grant to support kids’ health services

By : Ryan Yarosh

Campus partners with city schools

The Department of Social Work, in collaboration with the Decker School of Nursing and the School of Education, has been awarded a two-year grant to develop, implement and evaluate school-based health and mental health services in two Binghamton elementary schools.

The project, which will start in the fall and run through the spring of 2010, will be supported by a $52,000 grant from the Stewart W. and Willma C. Hoyt Foundation.
The program, known as Building Accessible Interdisciplinary Services for Binghamton Families and Children, will provide physical and mental health support to the children of MacArthur and Woodrow Wilson elementary schools. Through this project, nurses, social workers and educators will collaborate to improve physical, mental health and educational outcomes for children and families served by the schools.

“The premise here is to interact with families where they are — at the school and at home — and use a multidisciplinary approach to learn what the issues are and provide and/or find the community services to support all family members,” said Laura Bronstein, Social Work Department chair.

Master’s of social work and nurse practitioner students will have practicum placements at the schools, providing physical and mental health assessments for students and families. Referrals will then be made to community agencies/providers. If services are not available, University students will provide them on school grounds and in the homes.

Master’s and doctoral-level faculty under the coordination of School of Education faculty member Liz Anderson will supervise these graduate students. Anderson has extensive experience working in early childhood education in the Southern Tier. “I view this is as an exciting opportunity for Binghamton University to further expand interdisciplinary collaboration and partnerships with local schools to help ensure that all children grow up in safe, secure and nurturing environments,” Anderson said.

This isn’t the first time MSW, SOE and Decker have collaborated on a grant. Seeds for this program were first planted in 2006 following interdisciplinary needs assessments of families with young children living in downtown Binghamton. These assessments revealed a need for better integrated and accessible health, mental health, psychosocial and educational services.

For example, during focus group interviews, early childhood teachers expressed concern over the need to decrease the waiting time between identification and treatment of physical and mental health issues. These teachers also pointed to a need for in-home mental health and counseling services for children, as often these families do not have reliable transportation.

Susan Terwilliger, a partner in the grant who teaches in the primary care nurse practitioner community health program in the Decker School, helped develop school-based health centers in other elementary schools in Binghamton and the surrounding area. “Many school-age children and their families report barriers to receiving needed services: transportation problems, lack of insurance and inability for parents to take time off from work,” Terwilliger said. “Providing these services in schools benefits everyone. Parents tell me that they appreciate the convenient access to needed services, teachers say see an improvement in attendance rates when we are able to care for minor problems at the school site and the students learn to become more involved in managing their own health issues.”

Recent studies show an alarming lack of mental health services for children and adolescents in Broome County, with the greatest need in children under the age of 13.
Home visits with families with young children have been shown to reduce the rates of hospital attendance, increase preschool education, increase support for parents, reduce the rates of parent/child assault and reduce the rates of early problem behaviors among children.

University students will be involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of this program. “Our students will gain experience and expertise working as part of an interdisciplinary team, so critical for practice in today’s world,” Bronstein said.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08