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 beginning next week for the upcoming 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, installation director of psychological health said in the short term the program will increase access to care, improve collaborative care coordination and decrease absenteeism.
“Long term, the program will improve health, wellness and resiliency of military children,” he said. “The services our provider delivers will improve academic achievement, optimize social, emotional and behavioral functioning, maximize wellness and ultimately promote 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 offers convenience and consistency to military families.
“For children it is very important because they are in a familiar environment where they spend most of their day,” she said. “Children feel comfortable there and it’s often a place where their problems occur. It’s the place where they interact with their teachers and their peers. Having a behavioral health provider within the school system will make it easier for children and families to get the support they need.”
Cornelious said this program gives support not only for patients but also for teachers.
“Being right there in the school, in the trenches of it all, you can see children in their natural environment. For very young children their social interactions are very telling if there are problems. This is a huge benefit to a provider to have this opportunity,” she said. “Teachers do such a great job handling and juggling so many things throughout the day; mental health is not their expertise, but they are still tasked to educate children with mental health diagnosis and behavioral health concerns. This program provides extra support to our military families and our teachers. This partnership brings families, mental health providers and teachers together to support the child.”
Cornelious 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 Army.
“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 put a subject matter expert where we need them most, the place our military children spend the majority of their day.”
Franklin-Koch said school based behavioral health will increase time management and access to care for busing military families.
“This allows a clinician practicing in a clinical setting to see patients at the school the child attends,” she said. “This takes away the burden of checking students out of school, parents being away from work and students having to make up missed school work.”
Allison Hannah, licensed clinical social work for BJACH, has high expectations for the upcoming school year and will be splitting her time between North Polk and Parkway Elementary.
“With this being our inaugural year providing school based behavioral health services, my goal for the school year is to help lay the building blocks for a strong program that will have a positive, lasting impact on students, families, the school and Fort Polk for years to come,” she said. “This will be a year full of learning and growing as we establish and implement this program at our unique location.”
Hannah said the program is effective because it meets students where they are.
“We can cut down on the time away from school to attend therapy. Parents will no longer be required to make the impossible choice between mental health or education,” she said. “Teachers will also be getting another added layer of support. Whether they need to consult on a specific child in their class to better support their social, emotional or behavioral needs or if they are needing more general support, training or strategies to promote well-being and resilience, I will be there to help.”