Expanding Mental Health Support Services

January 29, 2018

A curious baby
Children with their arms reaching out to feel the rain pouring down

One of the goals of Children First’s Raise Your Hand Campaign was to help overcome the behavioral and mental health challenges children and families face by offering on-site professional care.  As a result of the campaign, Children First introduced its first licensed mental health professional to the team in December 2015.  Since then, Dr. Robert Nolan, or “Dr. Bob” as he often called by the children, has provided guidance to children, parents, and staff, creating an emotionally healthy environment for children to learn.  The addition of a second mental health professional in July 2017 allowed greater access to our children at times when they needed it most.

With 13 sites across Sarasota County and positive feedback from the introduction of mental health counselors, it became clear Children First needed to seek ways to expand the scope of services.  Children First has acquired affiliation agreements with Argosy University and the University of South Florida, allowing interns from each program to enhance their hands-on experience, while providing that extra support needed to reach more of our children and families.  Since August 2016, Children First has hosted two doctoral and one master’s student from Argosy University, and three master’s students from USF.  We look forward to growing the intern program as we take on six master’s students from Nova Southeastern in January 2018.

“Having the interns allows us to serve more children, particularly those who may not meet the diagnostic requirements for services elsewhere,” says Children First Child and Family Services Manager Dr. Robert “Bob” Nolan.

The master’s-level interns’ primary responsibilities include providing behavioral supports in the classroom, meeting with teachers individually, and assisting with the Sunbeams groups; volunteers who work with identified 4-year-olds who are experiencing current grief/loss issues.  Doctoral students are available for individual sessions with staff and family supports including individual and family sessions, along with assisting in the facilitation of Sunbeams groups.  Both master’s and doctoral students also complete the Classroom Mental Health Observation Form, to assist in implementing effective practices in the classroom.