On July 23, 2013, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a new prevention and early intervention program to be offered by Phoenix House in Orange County public schools. The program, called “School-Based Behavioral Health Intervention and Support Services,” will target students in 60 elementary, middle and high schools that face the most severe behavioral health challenges. The districts include: Anaheim, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Orange, and Placentia-Yorba Linda. Program Director Carole-Ann Scott, MA explained: “The services include two evidence based practices – Positive Action and the Strengthening Families Program. The services are offered to students attending grades K-12. Our services will target students to help them develop resilience, build positive behaviors and attitudes, and find accomplishment in growing positive communities. Students, and their families, may also be referred for an additional two levels of more intensive interventions.”
Funded by the Orange County Health Care Agency through the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), this is a new two-year contract, for $3.4 million with an option of renewing the services for two years; contingent upon available funding, contractor performance and other Health Care Agency policies. Phoenix House is excited by this opportunity to serve thousands of Orange County students and help them to improve their behavioral outcomes. The program reaches out to troubled children and teens, with a focus on direct services. Phoenix House staff will work with students, parents, and teachers to develop positive attitudes, so that school-age children will be adequately prepared to overcome adversity and the temptations of drugs, alcohol, violence, and delinquency.
The staff of 19 will be delivering an innovative program to students and their parents, which includes evidence based practices such as “Positive Action” and the “Strengthening Families Program.” The Positive Action evidence-based practice, used extensively by Phoenix House in Texas for the past 17 years, is based on the theory that providing positive reinforcement results in positive change. To put it simply, if we focus on thinking and identifying positive attitudes, goals, and approaches, we will want to actively engage in those positive behaviors. Positive Action helps to build community, increase students’ internal resources, and improves their ability to handle crisis situations. The program helps teachers, parents, and staff to understand the behaviors we want kids to choose. It is the positive that we need to pay attention to, not the negative.
The second evidence-based program, used more selectively with higher need students, is called the “Strengthening Families Program” (SFP) and helps improve family relationships and resilience. This program helps at-risk families reconnect and heal. The SFP teaches parents and children how to have meaningful discussions, helps parents to understand what discipline is and how to best communicate their values to children while listening to their needs. Finally, the program helps kids understand their role in the family and trust their parents, while learning to share and communicate.
Program Director Carole-Ann Scott, defined the goals of the program as: “Increased resilience, increase in ability to engage in meaningful education for the students, family connectedness and a cohesive community.” She is looking forward to “developing a strong, flexible, enthusiastic team of people who are doing what they love, who are dedicated, passionate, and who will go out and work in their own way to change the world.” Ms. Scott pointed out the importance of prevention: “You can’t start early enough learning to live a happy, healthy, well-adjusted life. This program is about the broad category of behavioral health; it focuses on teaching children and youth to achieve the best of who they are, in the most positive success-oriented way. These services help children develop problem solving strategies and coping skills. They will be able to survive crisis without resorting to behaviors that can negatively impact their entire futures.”
The offices of Phoenix House Behavioral Health Intervention and Support Services are located at 1615 17th Street in Santa Ana, California. If you have any questions, please contact Carole-Ann Scott, Program Director at CScott2@phoenixhouse.org.
Funded by the County of Orange Health Care Agency, Behavioral Health Services, Prevention and Intervention Division, Mental Health Services Act /Prop. 63.