The Riverside School District’s Community School-Based Behavioral Health (CSBBH) team is getting great results — and some accolades to go along with them.
Last week, members of the CSBBH team learned they were chosen to receive the 2019 Robert B. Cormany Award of Excellence for Student Services Programs. The award is granted through the Pennsylvania Association of Pupil Services Administrators (PAPSA).
This award was open to any student services staff in any school throughout the state, whether public, private, cyber, vocational or charter. The winner, according to PAPSA, is a program or person generally thought to be part of the student services staff, be it health services, school counseling, psychological services or another department.
The five-member CSBBH team, which was nominated for the award by Riverside Superintendent Paul Brennan, will be honored at a luncheon on April 4 at the 2019 PAPSA Conference in Leola.
“We’re so excited,” said CSBBH team member and counselor Nicole Dunbar. “In the mental health field, it’s so nice to be recognized for something like this. In this field, there’s so many private success stories between us and the families that have to remain confidential. A lot of times, we don’t get to celebrate those things publicly.”
In place since 2017, the CSBBH team currently serves Riverside students from kindergarten through seventh grade, and will soon begin getting referrals for students in eighth through 12th grade. Employed through Luzerne Intermediate Unit 18, the team consists of Dunbar, fellow counselor Jillian Mishko and behavioral health workers Tina Magowan, Mariah Dunn-Fletcher and Meghan Williams.
The team works with about 30 Riverside students, with Dunbar and Mishko each handling a caseload of 15 kids experiencing serious emotional and behavioral issues.
“We get referrals from teachers and administrators for students who are disruptive or withdrawn or whatever. Then they’re screened. Sometimes we get parent referrals,” Dunbar said. “The students can’t be successful in their subjects if they’re not happy mentally and emotionally. We do a lot of trauma work. Often, trauma affects the way people perform. It helps the kids feel safe and gives them better opportunities to learn.”
Among other things, the CSBBH team creates treatment plans, provides direct treatment and administers individual, group and family therapy. It also has a 24/7 crisis service available to all families.
In addition, the CSBBH team undertakes a host of other projects throughout the school year, from bringing in guest speakers to planning trips to hosting holiday parties. It brings in service dogs, and coordinates special programs for Autism Awareness Month, Suicide Awareness Month and Child Abuse Awareness Month.
And the team’s work continues throughout the summer months, when it holds an 8- to 10-week program centered on keeping clients engaged and working on their goals. The program includes group therapy, individual therapy and mental health awareness and wellness activities.
So far, the CSBBH team has successfully treated and discharged numerous students, Dunbar said. And those success stories are poised to keep growing as the team expands its reach to the entire district.
“When I see the change actually happen with a student, it’s so euphoric to me that it wipes away any bad day that I’ve had,” Dunbar said. “And our communication with the teachers and administration has been phenomenal. We get tons of help — it’s a huge effort by many people.”
“We love the district,” she added. “The administration works so well with us. They’re very supportive of us, and they seem very thankful to have us. We have a great relationship with everyone here.”