United Way expands student counseling program

Staff report

SIDNEY — Nearly 8 years ago, leadership from the Shelby County United Way, including former executive director Bob Parker, met with then Juvenile Court Judge William Zimmerman. The meeting was to discuss observations and concerns of youth at a younger age facing school and/or family challenges that was impeding their success. The United Way leaders asked Zimmerman, if funding became available, what he would like to see that could be preventative programming. His proposal to the Shelby County United Way is called the IMPACT Program and is now completing seven school years of programming and serves 60-70 new families each year.

The premise of the program is to provide case management, individual counseling, and family counseling to elementary and middle school students from any of the local public, private, and parochial schools in Shelby County. The collaborative program partners local school districts, the Midwest Regional Educational Service Center, the Family Resource Center, the Juvenile Court and the Shelby County United Way. The goal was simple; offer counseling services to students as young as possible in an effort to help the student and their family.

The Juvenile Court is the fiscal and administrative agent of the program. School principals, guidance counselors and teachers make referrals to program coordinator Amy Simindinger, an employee of both the Juvenile Court and Midwest Regional ESC. Simindinger follows up with families, shares the benefits of the program, and encourages participation.

The Family Resource Center was the provider of choice by Zimmerman and continues today. The Family Resource Center provides specialized behavior health services to children and families to strengthen family life and promote personal growth. Services are available for up to six months to families. The Family Resource Center accepts Medicaid and private insurance. Shelby County United Way funding covers any additional costs not covered by Medicaid, insurance or for families with insurance that does not cover mental health services.

This past fall, Shelby County United Way launched Student United Way. This initiative brings 20 juniors and seniors representing all high schools in the county together monthly to discuss issues facing our community and students. A top priority identified by the students was the need for mental health services at the high school level. This feedback was echoed after talking to high school principals and guidance counselors. In lieu of this feedback and recent national events, The Community Initiatives Committee voted to expand the IMPACT Program to now allow school referrals from pre-kindergarten to high school. School Districts were notified of the change and meetings are being scheduled to educate them on the referral process. Families interested in learning more about the program can contact Simindinger at 937-498-1354, ext. 7020, or asimindinger@mresc.org.

“The Board continues to follow our mission in evaluating programming and as necessary making the appropriate changes to meet our community needs,” said Scott Barr, director of the Shelby County United Way. “I am excited that we are now able to offer this program at the high school level to benefit more students and families as we anticipate additional referrals from this announcement.”

Jeff Beigel, Juvenile Court judge, shares, “The IMPACT program has provided a valuable support and resource to families in Shelby County. Our schools, preschool/daycare programs, youth service organizations and Juvenile Court have greatly benefitted from the opportunity to refer students to this program.”

John Bindas, president and CEO of Family Resource Center adds, “We love being a part of this great program and we are very excited to open the program up to a larger segment of the population. We are aware of the need in the high schools and we look forward to continuing to work in collaboration with local schools and the juvenile court and serve this group of young adults. This program is quite unique and unlike other programs at the Family Resource Center. We are excited to serve and continue to eliminate barriers to access for our youth in Shelby County.”

Staff report