DVIDS – News – BJACH Launches School-Based Behavioral Health Services in Vernon Parish


FORT POLK, La. – Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital is partnering with the Vernon Parish School Board to provide school-based behavioral health services to North Polk and Parkway Elementary Schools from next week for the next school year. The program will increase access to behavioral health care for military children at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Lt. Col. Alexander Ragan, facility director of psychological health, said that in the short term, the program will increase access to care, improve the coordination of collaborative care and reduce absenteeism.

“In the long term, the program will improve the health, well-being and resilience of military children,” he said. “The services provided by our provider will enhance academic achievement, optimize social, emotional, and behavioral functioning, maximize well-being, and ultimately support optimal military readiness.”

Dr. Patricia Cornelious, chief of child, adolescent and family behavioral health services for BJACH, said having behavioral health providers in the school provides convenience and consistency for military families.

“For children, this is very important because they are in a familiar environment where they spend most of their day,” she said. “The children feel good there and it is often a place where their problems arise. It is where they interact with their teachers and peers. Having a behavioral health service provider within the school system will make it easier for children and families to get the support they need.

Cornelius said this program provides support not only to patients but also to teachers.

“Being there, in the school, in the trenches of it all, you can see the children in their natural environment. For very young children, their social interactions are very telling if there are problems. It’s a huge advantage for a supplier to have this opportunity,” she said. “Teachers do a great job handling and juggling so many things throughout the day; mental health is not their expertise, but they are still responsible for educating children with mental health diagnoses and behavioral health issues. This program provides additional support for our military families and teachers. This partnership brings together families, mental health providers and teachers to support the child.

Cornelius said she is proud to provide this support to our community.

Tiffany Franklin-Koch, school liaison officer for JRTC and Fort Polk, said the program is important to the school district and the military.

“Our military children live in a unique environment full of experiences and sometimes challenges,” she said. “By providing a behavioral health clinician from BJACH, we are placing a subject matter expert where we need it most, where our military children spend most of their day.”

Franklin-Koch said school-based behavioral health will increase time management and access to care for military families who travel by bus.

“It allows a clinician in a clinical setting to see patients at the school the child attends,” she said. “It removes the burden of checking on students out of school, parents being away from work and students having to catch up on missed schoolwork.”

Allison Hannah, Certified Clinical Social Worker for BJACH, has high expectations for the upcoming school year and will split her time between North Polk and Parkway Elementary.

“As this is our first year of school-based behavioral health services, my goal for the school year is to help lay the foundation for a strong program that will have a positive and lasting impact on students, families, school and Fort Polk for years to come,” she said. “It will be a year full of learning and growth as we establish and implement this program in our unique location.”

Hannah said the program is effective because it meets students where they are.

“We can reduce the time spent away from school for therapy. Parents will no longer be forced to make the impossible choice between mental health or education,” she said. “Teachers will also get another level of additional support. Whether they need to see a specific child in their class to better meet their social, emotional or behavioral needs or if they need more general support, training or strategies to promote wellbeing and resilience, I will be there to help them.

Date taken: 18.08.2022
Date posted: 18.08.2022 14:00
Story ID: 427527
Location: FORT POLK, LA, USA

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