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Federal grant brings mental health consultations to public preschools

Department of Health and Human Services gives $375,000 to local children’s mental health network

May 6, 2009 

(Athens, OH) – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Rural Health Policy awarded $375,000 to the local rural health network, Integrating Professionals for Appalachian Children (IPAC).

The three-year grant, “Building capacity: Raising resiliency,” focuses on two goals: bringing childhood mental health consultations to public preschool classrooms and implementing a workforce development initiative.

“This grant will improve early outcomes in children’s mental health and increase the capacity of early childhood health professionals,” says Jane Hamel-Lambert, Ph.D., IPAC president and director of interdisciplinary mental health education at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM).  

The first part of the grant, the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMH) Program brings together an interdisciplinary team of IPAC participants – ECMH consultants from the Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services, Inc., a pediatric neuropsychologist and the IPAC “family care navigator” – to provide mental health consultations for preschool-aged children in Athens County.  

IPAC’s Family Care Navigator program provides a point person to help parents and caregivers make decisions related to children’s mental health, find treatment providers and reduce barriers to care. The current family care navigator, Sue Meeks, R.N., is a nurse coordinator for OU-COM’s Office of Community Health Programs.

The grant also funds the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative, which offers teachers and other school employees training and consultation services related to early childhood mental health.  The program provides on-site instruction and coaching to all 19 Athens County public preschools, including special education programs. Other services include collaborative peer group supervision, learning communities, journal readings and program consultation by state and national experts.

“These and other efforts broaden the ECMH consultation and treatment agenda, placing it within the greater public health agenda,” says Sherry Shamblin, an ECMH consultant with Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services, Inc., and a founding IPAC board member.

“By creating a strong community-university partnership, we have been able to leverage funding and resources on behalf of young children and families in our region,” Shamblin says. “IPAC serves as a model for collaboration in our state by creating a strong community-university partnership.”

This grant proposal expands the work of IPAC, a regional network of organizations committed to improving children’s mental health. This non-profit network includes local families; fourteen community agencies in Athens, Hocking, Meigs and Vinton Counties; and several Ohio University departments and clinics.

“IPAC works to provide coordinated and comprehensive care for Appalachian Ohio children through early screenings, increased referrals and better collaboration,” says John Borchard, B.S.N., R.N., director of program development for the Southern Consortium for Children and chair of IPAC’s board of directors. “This new grant will help us get the best and earliest care to children in our region.”

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