Pioneer to adopt youth in transition program

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

Recorder Staff
Published: 12/26/2016 9:46:55 PM

NORTHFIELD — Come next school year, Pioneer Valley Regional School students who experience a long absence will receive extra clinical and academic support through the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition program.

According to Christine Maguire, the school district’s special education administrator, implementing the customized program at Pioneer would mean having a more formalized plan for supporting students after an injury, illness or mental health-related absence.

“It seems like something we can do,” Maguire told the school committee recently. “We’re already doing that on an individual basis.”

Maguire said she attended a presentation about the BRYT program in November at Amherst-Pelham Regional High School, where the program already exists. It was started in 2004 at Brookline High School and has begun to take root across the state.

To demonstrate a student who might benefit from the program, Maguire talked about “Brenda,” a fictional student who struggles with anxiety and depression. After the sudden death of her mother, Brenda’s anxiety and depression spiked and she was hospitalized for a week, missing 12 days of school.

“This is the kind of thing that happens more than you realize,” Maguire said before the school board. “It’s the start of a downward spiral.”

“Public schools are becoming the de facto provider for students with medical problems or mental disorders,” she added.

According to the program’s website, students who return to school after a long absence are at high risk for academic failure.

“For many students, the disruption of their education is the first episode of what may become a lifelong mental health disorder,” the site reads. “Without appropriate and timely treatment, a single mental health emergency in adolescence can lead to a lifetime of poor functioning.”

To combat these struggles, the short-term and intensive program would provide students with much-needed resources.

“There’s a clinician who’s dedicated to the program and also a counselor,” Maguire said.

According to the program’s website, it requires a dedicated classroom that is open and staffed during every period, and four types of support services: clinical, care coordination, academic support and family support.

Maguire said she will be working out the logistics of implementing such a program at Pioneer through the rest of the school year, and with free setup assistance from BRYT representatives, she expects to be well prepared for the 2017-2018 school year.

She said the program would not entail hiring any new staff. Rather, current staff would take on the roles of clinician and counselor.


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