Sometimes the most daunting challenges can leave the greatest impact. Last August, Phoenix House Behavioral Health Intervention and Support Services (BHIS), fully funded by the Orange County Health Care Agency (MHSA/Prop 63), opened its doors with the goal to increase positive character attributes and reduce problem behaviors among Orange County’s youth.
After spending several months setting up the program, training staff, and establishing connections with Orange County schools, BHIS delivered services to 23 schools located within five school districts between February and May 2014. Approximately 12,000 students of various ages and cultural demographics completed the customized pre- and post-assessments. BHIS also received feedback from school personnel demonstrating positive outcomes including: 93% reported that lessons were delivered in a culturally sensitive manner, 90% reported that teaching positive action was beneficial to students, and 82% would recommend BHIS to others.
As the school year drew to a close, the BHIS team was able to clearly witness changes in the students. One day at Lincoln Elementary School in Santa Ana Unified School District, Prevention Coordinator Natalie Asawesna was approached by a 2nd grade student from the program. With a big smile he asked if they were going to meet in the small group again. He told her that he had a lot of fun and he missed meeting together. Natalie reminded him that their group had ended but that he should always remember the skills they learned and the activities they shared to keep the positive feelings flowing.
During the 5th grade graduation at California Elementary School in Orange Unified School District, Prevention Coordinator Katie West was mentioned in a 5th grader’s speech about his good memories from the school year. It is very rewarding for our dedicated staff to hear such positive experiences directly from the students.
In addition to student appreciation, we also received excellent feedback from teachers. One teacher from California Elementary in Orange Unified School District stated, “I thought that Phoenix Houses’ lessons were very beneficial to the students. Mrs. West did an excellent job and had a great relationship with the students. She made connections to school and real life situations that hit home and made the students realize that there are long term consequences to their actions.”
Beginning with a plan, an empty office on E. 17th Street, and a staff of dedicated advocates for young people’s behavioral health, we have developed a comprehensive program, delivered positive results, learned many lessons, and are remembered by students after the summer is over. Needless to say, we are very excited for 2014-2015 and beyond.