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Elizabethtown elementary schools will have access to a therapeutic setting for students starting this week.
The new program for elementary students is a partnership with Communicare Inc., a regional provider of behavioral health services, and will help students in need of mental health services in a school setting.
Incredible Years is a therapy program Communicare uses in several early childhood settings throughout its eight-county service region. But this is the second district in which students receive services on a daily basis. The first was started in Brandenburg about a year and a half ago, said Dr. Doug Olds, clinical manager for Communicare.
The Elizabethtown Independent Schools program begins today and is in the Valley View Education Center, Superintendent Gary French said. Students will be assessed to determine their needs and receive therapy services half of the day, then work on academics for the other half.
Students will continue to be assessed weekly to determine their progress and when they can transition back into the classroom, French said.
The district talked with Communicare for a few years about some type of program that could address students demonstrating mental and emotional issues that surpass the expertise of a teacher.
“I’ve seen the need. Our principals see the need,” French said.
The district wanted to focus on elementary aged students, French said.
“We want to reach them as early as we possibly can,” he said.
Communicare is providing two therapists, one full-time and one part-time, as well as funding a teacher and two teaching aids, he said.
Incredible Years uses reinforcement to teach children appropriate behaviors and is able to integrate that therapy with the learning environment, Olds said. Communicare became interested in the program after hearing from several parties that young children needed mental health services.
The program also will work with families to strengthen support at home for parents and children, he said. The teachers also receive training, and the child’s future teachers can be on board regarding plans for the child.
Keeping the children in a school setting helps maintain a familiar schedule, allows them to stay in their homes — unlike hospitalization — and provides an opportunity to work on behavior as they’re learning about it.
Calvin Jackson, regional administrator for Communicare, said keeping the program in the community could have a ripple effect throughout the city as these students are helped.
“I really think there will be consequences” that will be evident in the future, he said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747.