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MESA, AZ — Terros Health and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Valley are working together to address mental health needs in more under-represented communities.
The pilot program is called “The Whole Child Approach,” where there will be wellness coaches provided at various branches of Boys and Girls Clubs in Maricopa and Pinal counties.
“It’s come out of COVID and knowing that young people face a lot of different stressors and challenges that are just present in their lives,” said Heather Budzien, the vice president of programs and branches of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Valley.
According to the CDC, mental health in kids has been on the decline since before the pandemic. From data released earlier this year, with information from 2021, 44% of high school students say they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the last year.
“It was really tough. I failed all my classes, I had no one around to keep me company. It was really lonely. Sad,” said Ben, a student who takes part in the after-school activity clubs, about what it was like during the pandemic.
The program is aimed at offering more support to children and helping them express their emotions and feelings.
There will be a total of 30 coaches over the next three years that will work on activities with children ages 5-18 through games, art therapy and other therapeutic interventions.
The well-being coaches will also be working with the organization’s program directors to help them understand behavioral health in kids.
“It’s so important to meet these families where they’re at, where they’re comfortable, where they feel safe,” added Kim McWilliams, the senior director of clinical excellence and children’s at Terros Health.
If needed, coaches will help parents and children find additional treatment.
The program will go on for three years. If proven to be successful by gathering data while helping kids, they will expand it in the future.
“I think it’s cool that you can come in and like talk to somebody if you need somebody to vent to,” Ben said of the program.
The pilot program is funded by money from the Arizona Department of Education as part of the American Rescue Plan as well as other money from different foundations.