Ozark Guidance has tools to put kids on the right path

Oct 23, 2008

From the Siloam Springs Herald, October 12, 2008

Throughout the year, the mental health of local students is overseen by two collaborating entities in Siloam Springs.
In addition to in-school counselors hired and employed by the Siloam Springs School District, for the past nine years, counselors and case managers from Ozark Guidance Center have also had a strong presence within local schools.
“ We are here to try to provide mental health services for kids and families more intensive than school counselors might be able to address, ” said Blaine Hubbard, coordinator over OGC school-based services for Siloam Springs and surrounding areas. “ We have offices at all of the schools and deal with many of the longterm issues that our students face. ”
Since 1970, Ozark Guidance Center has heralded itself as a private, Joint Commission-accredited, non-profit community provider committed to the goal of bettering mental health in Northwest Arkansas. The agency has presence in Washington, Benton, Madison and Carroll counties.
Similar to school counselors, OGC professionals are licensed by the state.
Siloam Springs School District shares nine master degree holding OGC counselors, nine case managers and multiple community resource personnel with nearby schools, Hubbard said.
“ In such a large population of students there are always going to be students who have a wide range of problems that take an extraordinary amount of time and attention to help them work through their issues and find ways to cope and adjust, ” District Assistant Superintendent Kent Raymick said. “ It is very difficult for our regular school counselors to adequately provide those services and OGC fills the void very effectively.”
Completely separate from the OGC services, for the past several years, the local school district has employed a set of licensed professional counselors to serve students attending Siloam Springs schools.
With only one or two onstaff counselors positioned within each school and enrollment at an all-time high, the additional services provided by OGC are a welcome supplement to existing services, said Raymick.
“The local schools and superintendents have been so great in helping with our services and giving us space in the schools, ” Hubbard said. “ We want the families and the schools involved — if they aren’t on board, we’re in trouble.”
Less than 15 counselors are listed on the district’s payroll, and with a recent enrollment report of 3, 759 students within the district and population expected to rise in upcoming years, the extra help is welcome for intensive, lengthy issues. Anywhere from 10 to 40 student clients per school are served by OGC counselors each week, Hubbard said. In addition to providing onsite clinical services, OGC staff handle crisis intervention, some ancillary clinical services and individual, group and family counseling. “ I know without their services many students would not receive the level and depth of help they need and deserve, ” Raymick said. “ That is not meant to be indictment of our regular school counselors. They do a fantastic job as well in dealing with students ‘ issues, but the reality is that the expectations and job responsibilities they have in working in public school is so wide-ranging that it is next to impossible for them to handle all of the problems and issues that many of children face in their struggles with emotional and social issues or home situations that put them at high risk of dropping out of school or worse.” Individual schools provide OGC representatives office space and telephone services on campus but are not required to make payment for services rendered.
As per the agreement between the district and OGC, services are paid by thirdparty reimbursement, which includes private insurance,
federal program reimbursement or payment from individual families. “Kids come referred to us from a variety of places — their parents, the court system, schools, physicians, ” Hubbard said. “ We do what we can to find a funding source. We try to help the parents as much as we can. The most important factor in all of this is the success of the child.”
On average, students referred to OGC services spend one hour per week with a counselor and one hour per week with a case worker.
Students receive services during school hours and are removed from classes during the least intrusive times possible according to Hubbard.
With parental consent, OGC counselors consult with teachers and occasionally visit client homes after-hours for family sessions.
“It makes a huge difference for these kids if everyone is working together for them, ” Hubbard said. “ Both the parents and the kids feel much more supported when we’re all on the same page ”
Within the next couple of months, OGC plans to open a therapeutic day treatment center in Siloam Springs.
Over the summer, OGC purchased the building located at Harvard and Carl streets that was formerly occupied by the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club.
“We hope to have it up and running very soon, ” Hubbard said. “ We’ll be able to provide both therapy and education simultaneously. It will be a more intensified service.”
The 8, 000-square foot building is currently undergoing renovations that include dividing the building into classroom space.
When the center opens, 15 to 20 OGC employees will work at the new site that will host students for eight hours per school day.
The day site will have the capability to serve more than 30 students.
“This will be really good for the community and kids who need it once it gets going, ” Hubbard said. “ We’ll help develop structure, discipline, learning, with the ultimate goal of getting them back into the schools.”

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