Easterseals launches new program for children needing mental health services

Local News

(WEHT) – If your child is sick, you take her to the doctor, but what if you had to wait 12 months to get in? That’s been the dilemma for some children in our area needing to see a doctor for mental health services or a psychologist until now.

A new program has started at the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center to see that those kids get help.

Dr. Jim Schroeder, Vice President of the Department of Psychology and Wellness at Easterseals, joined us Wednesday to talk about the program.


Shelley Kirk: Thank you for being here. Has that wait really been that long?

Jim Schroeder: It has been 12 months – even more at some points. Can you imagine having a child and they’re getting kicked out of school or having suicidality? It really has been that long.

SK: Now Easterseals saw this problem and began working towards this program. Tell us about this program.

JS: We realized this was a huge need in the world of childhood psychology. We realized in order to grow access you can’t only have use health providers here – you have to bring them in from out of town. What we started was an internship in pre-Doctoral psychology. These are providers coming in on the last year of their training so they have a minimum of eight years of college education, fully supervised, they’re already really highly trained at this point. So what it provides is greater access and potentially – estimates are 50% stay in the area where they’re trained – so potentially many more providers down the road.

SK: So that’s providing more access for people here right now. So it’s hitting the problem in two ways. So these are doctors but they’re still in training. Should parents be concerned?

JS: No, here’s the great thing: the interns we have right now have 26 years of college education combined and four hours of direct supervision per week. Everything they do from report writing is completely supervised and signed off by us. So what I think families will find is they get a compassionate professional, highly trained and highly supervised, and then their access goes from a year to 2-3 months. Although, as the program grows, we see the need is tremendous and people are already responding.

SK: I want to talk about. Tell us the need. What do you see out there for the need for these services?

JS: The world of child psychology for a lot of reasons, it just keeps growing. It’s kind of a sad state of where things are right now and it just continues to grow. All of us in this area who treat children have seen that for years so we have a reason to grow this in the community. We have an obligation in some way.

SK: Your mental health not only affects your wellbeing but also the community. We’re talking about school safety, poverty, homelessness.

JS: Absolutely, Mental health and poverty are very closely related. A lot of issues for people who end up in poverty stem from mental health issues that are not addressed. So, we feel like if we address this early, we know these things work – then we will see much better things in the decades to come.

SK: Parents who may be concerned: what kind of symptoms should parents look for in their children?

JS: The first thing is, a sudden change in behavior. If you have a child who’s doing well and suddenly is more withdrawn, depressed. Those are signs that we want them to call. We also treat developmental concerns: learning difficulties, attention concerns, question of Autism spectrum disorders. Whether they’re pressed for school concerns or they don’t know where to go, those are the types of calls we typically get.

SK: So this new program, do folks just call you?

JS: They can call us but ultimately the kids will be physician referred.

SK: So talk to your doctor about this.

JS: Absolutely.

SK: Thank you so much. We’ll be following your program.

JS: Thank you.

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(This story was originally published on November 12, 2019)

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