EL CENTRO – Michael Horn, Director of Behavioral Health, submitted a pilot plan to the Board of Supervisors to interject mental health services in schools beginning with kindergartners.
Horn explained the Mental Health department in the past intervened with problem children starting at the 3rd grade level. The County found at that grade level children already were experiencing or showing negative behavior.
Third grade, he said, was too late in the child’s life to receive referrals to nip detrimental acts in the bud. At risk children needed to be identified earlier.3
Supervisor Michael Kelley, District 3, said, ” It’s about time. We need to change behavior before it goes forward, stop bullying before it gets started.”
According to Horn, the county mental health department has established collaboration with the schools 3rd to 12th grade classes. Horn said the teachers have been the main intervention and the county serves as a coach for the school employees. The county also works with parents and caregivers for third graders on up.
“Eight percent of the population creates 80% of the problems,” Horn said. “If we could intervene before these problems become overt, this could make a major impact later for the good of society.”
Horn cited that evidence shows early signs of conduct problems can be detected as early as preschool. Many children bring a pattern of antisocial behavior with them from home when they enter school which is the beginning pattern of maladaptive behavior.
The proposed “Innovation Plan, First Step to Success,” will address the needs of kindergarten students identified to be at risk.
Horn said by embedding behavioral health staff in kindergarten classrooms a new working relationship will be developed to give parents and classroom instructors access to services.
The Mental Health Services Act funds are 100% allocated by the State so no county general funds are required.