State agencies, Children’s of Alabama partner to expand training for mental health service coordinators in public schools

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(Alabama Department of Mental Health)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Decades of research indicate the early years of life are a period of exponential brain development, characterized by great opportunity and vulnerability, dependent on the relationships and environment in which a child is growing. Understanding this concept and utilizing the knowledge within the walls of a school is vital to supporting students in Alabama and increasing their success – academically and emotionally.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) Office of Infant and Early Childhood Special Programs, the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) and the Pediatric Access to Telemental Health Services Program of Children’s of Alabama (PATHS) have partnered to train school system mental health service coordinators throughout the state on infant and early childhood mental health fundamentals.

“Identifying the impact of relationships on brain development, understanding the root causes of behavior and learning effective strategies to work with students who may have experienced trauma are crucial. The courses offered by the PATHS Program of Children’s and the ADMH Office of Infant and Early Childhood Special Programs will assist mental health service coordinators to better connect and serve students in our public schools,” said ADMH Commissioner Kimberly Boswell.

Mental health service coordinators are appropriated by the Alabama Legislature to the Alabama State Department of Education. Their role is vital as additional mental health support, connecting students with school counselors, therapists and social workers, offering referrals and linkages to community services, and finding the right resources for children in need.

“Seamless support across agencies and organizations with a common focus of supporting students and families is key during these challenging times. Our goal is to ensure mental health service coordinators are available and trained to obtain key information that enables them to better equip districts with information and insight into student behaviors and provide appropriate and effective behavioral interventions,” said Dr. Kay Warfield, education administrator, Prevention and Support Division, Alabama State Department of Education.

Participants have offered positive reviews of the first two sessions held.

A mental health service coordinator stated, “I loved the scientific connection and examples as it is so clear as to how impactful teachers and parents are on the behaviors of students and their ability to be healthy and productive.”

Another coordinator stated, “I loved learning more about attachments in children and also how trauma affects the brain.”

The training series is provided by Stacey Daugherty, LICSW, IMH-E, infant and early childhood mental health consultant with the ADMH Office of Infant and Early Childhood Special Programs, in partnership with the PATHS Program at Children’s. The first two sessions were conducted in May and the series will conclude Aug. 23, 2022. The continuing education credit for this event was provided by The Amelia Center at Children’s.

“Children’s and PATHS are thrilled to have this partnership with ADMH and ALSDE. This training helps to fulfill our mission of providing mental health services to children/adolescents in Alabama’s rural and often underserved communities,” said Susan Griffin, LICSW, CHCQM, Children’s of Alabama.