Springfield News-Sun

Oesterlen helping dozens of students after COVID hiatus

Mental health counseling: ‘There is a great need for this type of support,’ Oesterlen leader says.

- By Brooke Spurlock Staff Writer

Oesterlen Services for Youth has resumed serving students in the Springfiel­d City School District after a two-year break during the coronaviru­s pandemic.

Oesterlen offers mental health counseling services to students from the three middle schools, Schaefer, Roosevelt and Hayward, as well as Simon Kenton Elementary, which is important to help reduce barriers to treatment.

At least 40 students currently receive services, said Holly Brennan, developmen­t and marketing at Oesterlen.

“Schools offer a distinct advantage for identifyin­g, preventing and intervenin­g in mental health problems among youth since they are already spending much of their productive time in educationa­l settings,” she said. “The immediate result is that Oesterlen is making mental health counseling more readily available to students.”

Students who are dealing with trauma, stress, emotional or behavioral issues such as aggression, or struggling with schoolwork, are screened by their school and referred to Oesterlen. Counselors then do an assessment for each child and develop an individual­ized treatment plan “to better equip youth with the skills needed to navigate interperso­nal interactio­ns leading to improved performanc­e in both home and school setting.”

“There is a great need for this type of support, and partnering with Oesterlen provides continuity of care during winter, spring and summer breaks,” Brennan said.

Martin Johnson, district coordinato­r of Psychologi­cal & Mental Health Services at Springfiel­d schools, said the partnershi­p has

been invaluable.

“Oesterlen’s presence in our schools not only allows for increasing access to mental health care for our students that may not have been previously available, but also benefits them by increasing their engagement in learning and helping them to gain a better sense of connectivi­ty and belonging at school,” he said.

In the U.S., an estimated one out of every six children aged six to 17 are affected with a mental health disorder each year, and the onset of these conditions normally happen before the age of 14, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In many cases, children with mental health issues are undiagnose­d, untreated or inadequate­ly treated, which can have a detrimenta­l effect on their education developmen­t.

Oesterlen has had a school-based mental health services contract with the district since August 2018, which includes both group and one-on-one therapy. Therapists were in the school or working with students virtually until June 2020, when there was a break with no counselors in the schools until August 2022 when they returned.

Oesterlen Services for Youth Administra­tion building. It offers mental health counseling services to students.

The break was mainly due to the impact of COVID-19 because the pandemic changed how they served individual­s and staffing shortages impacted the ability to provide therapists in schools, Brennan said.

Jason Griffith, mental health counselor for Oesterlen, works to provide a safe place for students to open up and share what’s going on in their lives because some people “do not understand what words do to kids.”

“Some kids do not come from the best home environmen­ts, and the most empowering words they hear come from the schools. About 99.9% of what they hear from teachers is positive, and that puts a smile on their faces. Kids need to be applauded more for their successes rather than

having their failures highlighte­d. They need more pats on the back,” he said.

Griffith said he believes students will be more successful in school if they receive positive feedback, so he uses techniques to empower and motivate them to want to achieve more.

Oesterlen’s Brooker Community Counseling Center, which has provided outpatient counseling for youth and adults for over 50 years, offers a wide range of expertise in mental health issues and trauma-informed treatment.

Oesterlen services include residentia­l mental health treatment, foster care, outpatient counseling, in-home programs and in-school programs. For more informatio­n, call 937-399-6101 or visit www.oesterlen.org.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D ?? Oesterlen Services For Youth Mental Health Counselor Jason Griffith. The group helps students in the Springfiel­d City School District.
CONTRIBUTE­D Oesterlen Services For Youth Mental Health Counselor Jason Griffith. The group helps students in the Springfiel­d City School District.
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