An editorial in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal has backed a recently introduced bill in the state legislature that would open the door for mental health screenings for public school students. “This legislation is a worthwhile step in tackling the problem of school shootings as well as other problems that can arise among our children. It should work well in conjunction with other efforts, such as increased school security and gun-law reform,” the paper’s editorial board wrote. The bill would trigger a study by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to come up with a screening system that would identify school children at risk of harming themselves or others. The idea is that all students would be screened initially. “We have nothing that determines if a child has a mental health concern ... to the point they could be contemplating harming themselves or others,” said state Rep. John Torbett, the bill’s main sponsor. “This bill would bring smart people together for determining the appropriate criteria.” One of the bill’s cosponsors, Rep. Debra Forsyth, said school counselors tell her that most of their time is spent dealing with students with emotional and mental issues. “When we were studying the impact of [math and reading standards] a few years back, many parents complained about emotional stress in very young children, so issues can obviously arise at an early age,” Ms. Forsyth said in the article. “Our children are facing pressures from all sides – increased testing, peer pressure, and economic difficulties. They’re not receiving the best resources we could provide. It’s about time they received a helping hand.”
A mental health facility has opened in southeast Fresno, Calif., that seeks to provide a bridge for people experiencing a mental health crisis and need a place to live, according to a report by ABC affiliate KFSN. The $5 million, 12,000-square-foot, 16-bed facility is an alternative to hospitalization, said, an administrator at the facility. “A facility like this creates a stepping-stone that’s closer to the ones before and after, so when a person is making that pathway toward recovery, it’s not a Grand Canyon they have to leap to get that recovery. It’s really a clear pathway,” said Fresno County Behavioral Health Director . The facility, called the , will provide psychiatric support to residents and will aim to serve hundreds of people each year. To get into the center, patients must be referred by the county’s behavioral health department. Next, the department hopes to provide residential housing for those who leave the facility. .
A former dairy farm reincarnated as a school calledin Putnam County, N.Y., is helping children with special needs find solace, the New York Times reported. Aside from usual pigs and goats, the farm’s denizens include more exotic critters, such as camels, an emu, peacocks, miniature horses and donkeys, owls, falcons, and a condor. “Green Chimneys’ approach focuses on an awareness of how trauma impacts human and animal lives, that a healing setting can benefit both, and that there is a broader parallel between human, animal, environmental, and societal well-being,” according to the school’s website. The article describes the experience of 8-year-old Xander DeLeon, who was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia, and experienced rages and absences while attending a charter school in Manhattan. Now he is pulling down As and Bs. “The school staff tell him that he won’t be able to work on the farm if he doesn’t continue to do well in school,” said Leslie DeLeon, Xander’s mother. The philosophy is that caring for animals can be a means to confidence and social skills for emotionally challenged children. The day and residential facility now has two campuses in Brewster and Carmel, N.Y., more than 240 students, and about the same number of animals. “There has been a lot of research on pets at home and how healthy it is in the past 10 years,” said , director of clinical and medical services at Green Chimneys. Yet, as he first became aware of the use of animal intervention for special-needs children, even he was skeptical. “When you have traditional training as a psychologist, you never think about doing anything outside of the office,” Dr. Klee said. But Dr. Klee was converted. “Animals in a sense are purer, more consistent, more accepting. You are kind to the animals; they show their appreciation.” .