Children’s mental health issues are focus of Cartmell programs

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By Sharon Graves

The News-Democrat

Cartmell Elementary students are creating a quilt describing what makes them happy for Childhood Mental Health Month as they explore their feelings and emotions.

The quilt, designed to help children recognize when and why they are happy, will hang in Cartmell’s cafeteria to serve as a reminder of those emotions, according to Charlotte Curnutt, the family liaison at Cartmell. All students are participating in the project and will be able to visually see that happiness comes in many different forms to different people.

Mental health issues can begin as early as childhood, but today there are many individuals and programs available to help meet those needs.

The KEYS program, Kentuckians Encouraging Youth to Succeed, is a federally funded program connected with the Carroll County school system; it is not funded by the school system. It exists to coordinate services and support for children and families with emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs, according to Devon Lindsey, social marketing specialist with KEYS.

Children with varying degrees of issues such as an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory or health factors, inability to build or maintain appropriate relationships with peers or teachers, a general mood of unhappiness or depression, or inappropriate behavior or feelings under normal circumstances are just some of the reasons to refer a child to KEYS Lindsey explained.

A school guidance counselor or the KEYS team could be called to make a referral.  The guidance counselor then would meet with the Family Support Team and other school staff members to determine the criteria for the student, Lindsey said.

The family is contacted order to receive services that are available with the idea being for the whole team to wrap services around the child and the family to meet their needs according to Lindsey.

KEYS is a program created to build and expand the system of care in Northern Kentucky that tries to prevent children from falling through the cracks, according to Lindsey.  This is accomplished by coordinating community services and support to relieve stresses that can be at the root of some childhood mental health issues.

Help can come in many forms, Lindsey said, such as seeing that the family has food, helping to pay for utilities as well as getting appropriate counseling for students. 

However, if for some reason a referral does not meet the criteria for mental health services, KEYS will help find other services to meet the needs of the child, Lindsey explained. 

Ron Gillespie, a former Carroll County teacher, is the Community Collaborative Assistant and works to get people on board to get resources for kids, according to Lindsey.

The Three Rivers Health Department takes the lead with children in their early years while Charlotte Curnutt, the family liaison at Cartmell works with children in the third through the fifth grades. 

Cartmell students took time out Monday, May 4 to make nine by nine inch quilt blocks visually describing things that make them feel happy, Curnutt explained.

The blocks have holes punched in each corner and they are then tied together with ribbons. They will put the blocks together and make a quilt that is about king size and hang it in the cafeteria at Cartmell, helping children to remember happy feelings. Anyone wishing to volunteer help in assembling the quilt is encouraged to call Curnutt at Cartmell at (502) 732-7085.

Students give daily announcements on closed circuit TV at Cartmell and Curnutt explained that the students would also be giving information on mental health throughout this week.  

Using a community coordinated effort known as system of care has made remarkable improvement in the lives of children affected with mental health issues, according to information provided by KEYS.  Measurable improvements include:

  • Emotional and behavioral problems were reduced significantly or remained stable for nearly 90 percent of children after 18 months in systems of care.
  • The percentage of children and youth who had deliberately harmed themselves or had attempted suicide decreased 32 percent after 12 months in systems of care.
  • School attendance improved.
  • School achievement improved.
  • The number of arrests was reduced.