Health and Wellness Foundation of Pike County grant to address mental health needs of three Pike County school districts

Mental Health Centers of Western Illinois

PITTSFIELD, Ill. — The Health and Wellness Foundation of Pike County recently gave a $140,000 grant to the Mental Health Centers of Western Illinois. The grant will be allocated over three years — $70,000 in year one, $40,000 in year two and $30,000 in year three.

The grant will serve the mental/behavioral health needs of the students of Griggsville/Perry CUSD No. 4, Pleasant Hill CUSD No. 3 and Western CUSD No. 12 by providing a full-time counselor in a 12-month position. This resources will be solely dedicated to serving the needs of the three school district, the students and their families. MHCWI will serve as the employing entity as well as providing oversight of the new position.

The grant will be used to provide staff compensation, tuition reimbursement and technology for the three years. The MHCWI will cover fringe benefits and related travel expenses for the new resource to travel throughout the school districts on a weekly basis. Through reimbursements for billable hours to Medicaid, the position is expected to become self-sustaining after the third year of the grant.

“The foundation considers this a significant step toward addressing the many concerns identified in the district that have only heightened as a result of students experiencing an array of pandemic-related issues such as isolation, depression, anxiety, trauma, self-harm, peer conflict, social skills, low self-esteem and pandemic-associated traumatic response,” HWFPC Executive Director Patricia McIntosh said.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to partner with MHCWI toward addressing the very preside mental health concerns of our Pike County youths and families. The foundation has been monitoring Pike County’s mental health status for several years, which prompted us to conduct our mental health needs assessment in 2015. We began talking with the Pike County school superintendents two years ago about their mental and behavioral health needs, pre-pandemic, and its ramifications for schools. It heightened the urgency to collaborate with MHCWI to address this unprecedented imperative.”

“We are going directly to the students rather than the normal expectation of parents bring them to us in our office, which allows us to reach more students by doing this,” said Mackenzie Shipmen, director of clinical services for MHCWI’s Pike County site. “Our goal is to provide more mental health support to the students who need us and provide them with education on mental health issues they are struggling with, as well as the tools, resources and space to share their struggles and feel heard, and hopefully learn some valuable ways to cope with their feelings and stressors through the process.

“We have seen a positive response from the school districts involved in this thus far, and we hope to continue to provide this service long after the grant term ends.”

The new position has been filled by Shanna Ewers, who received her bachelor of science degree in human science from Western Illinois University in 2014 snd her master’s degree in counseling and education from the University of the Southwest in 2021. Ewers had been employed by MHCWI since 2017, working in substance abuse counseling’s, mental health counseling for adults and children and providing SASS follow-up crisis stabilization services for children and adults.

The new position was introduced in the districts at the start of the 2021 school year. It already has manifested a positive impact and response from the students as a result of a consistent, on-site mental health counselor in the schools. Among the tools and interventions being provided by MHCWI in this role are:

  • Individual assessments;
  • Small group sessions addressing coping skills, resilience and understanding others, among other pressing topics;
  • Access to psychiatric services from MHCWI via telemedicine provided by the SIU School of Medicine;
  • Individual crisis intervention;
  • Family meetings;
  • Planned programs and services throughout the summer.

“The Health and Wellness Foundation of Pike County has provided the students of Pike County with a service that most school district would not be able to provide without their assistance,” said Ron Edwards, superintendent of Pleasant Hill School District No. 3. “This grant opportunity will allow us to meet the needs of our students that we along would not have the ability or personnel to address.”

HWPFC funding decisions for the Healthy Community grants are made each fall by its Board of Directors, which consists of Judge Michael Roseberry, chairman; J. Michael Kinscherf, vice chairman; Darla Lemons, secretary/treasurer; Michelle Westbrook, Andrea Allen and Zach Orr. To learn more about HWPFC’s other grant programs, scholarships and community collaborations, call the foundation office at 217-285-6080 or visit the website at www.hwfpc.org.

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