WESTERN PLAINS, MONTH – As May, also recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, draws to a close, Ozarks Healthcare marks the end of its first full school year with mental health services readily available on-site for students across the West Plains School District through its Zizzer Clinic. During the 2021-2022 school year, two mental health therapists from Ozarks Healthcare’s Behavioral Health Center (BHC) served approximately 80 students through therapy. BHC staff also provided 40 students with community support services.
“Only our numbers alone speak to the clear need for mental health services,” said Raegan Fox, outreach services coordinator at the West Plains School District. “We started with a BHC therapist and quickly filled her schedule. At the end of the school year, we had him at the Zizzer clinic four days a week and another therapist here another day of the week. Having them here was a weight lifted. Children cannot learn if they are not in the right frame of mind and if they are in other situations. This is one of those barriers that we can remove.
In addition to providing routine health checks and treatment for minor injuries or illnesses, the Ozarks Healthcare Zizzer Clinic also now houses behavioral health care for students of all ages. Clinic staff, therapists and school counselors work together to ensure that students who need care can be transported to the clinic and adhere to their class schedules.
“When a student is 18, he or she has more verbal skills to ask for help than a student who may be six,” Fox said. “Our school counselors know when we go out of scope. They will make these calls to families of students and talk about Ozarks Healthcare’s BHC services on campus. If we have consent from the family, we will begin paperwork immediately so the student can start with mental health services. »
Earlier this year, the West Plains School District showed its focus on youth mental health by sponsoring an event with the BHC of Ozarks Healthcare that featured award-winning mental health and suicide prevention activist Kevin Hines and speaker. Hines addressed a packed arena of local students from across the region at the West Plains Civic Center in March. In 2000, 19-year-old Hines attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Hines now travels the world sharing her story with people of all ages, the art of wellness and the ability to survive pain with true resilience.
During the 2022-2023 school year, Ozarks Healthcare will add a full-time therapist and other Community Support Specialists (CSS) to its Zizzer Clinic staff.
“Community Support Specialists are responsible for supporting and providing health services to young people with mental health diagnoses,” said Billie Weaver, Youth Team Supervisor at Ozarks Healthcare BHC. “Our Community Support Specialists help young people learn skills that will increase their success in the community, at home and with their peers. »
Community support specialists and therapists through Ozarks Healthcare’s BHC Services at its Zizzer Clinic can also help students learn positive coping skills, anger management, problem solving, coping depression and anxiety, communication, de-escalation of self-harm, etc.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ozarks Healthcare BHC has seen an increase in demand for mental health services. School districts are experiencing the same problem, Fox said.
“I think the pandemic has amplified everything,” Fox said. “Children and their families are facing bigger and more serious problems than ever before. When our youth lack healthy coping skills, they engage in risky behaviors. I love this working relationship with the BHC of Ozarks Healthcare. It’s so good for our children and our community. Having that open line of communication between our parents and teachers and counselors all together and helps us educate our children better.
The Ozarks Healthcare Zizzer Clinic is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. for appointments and walk-in visits through the end of June. The clinic will be closed until July and will reopen on August 1 for the summer holidays. It is located at 1013 College St. in West Plains. The Ozarks Healthcare Zizzer Clinic currently serves students, staff, and faculty in the West Plains School District (including South Fork Elementary), as well as students at the South Central Career Center in West Plains.
For more information or to make an appointment, please call 417-505-7123.