Central Elementary welcomes new mental health program

MARSHALL COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) - A mental health program in the Ohio Valley is expanding to help any child in need.

The long time program was held exclusively in middle schools across Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, and Marshall Counties but will now be offered to Elementary School kids.

The Program is provided by Youth Services System.

The United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley partnered with Southwestern Energy to fund the Program for area schools.

Coordinators work alongside school counselors and administrators to plan for necessary school-wide prevention and early intervention services.

Mental Health Coordinator, Trista Rager said, "We do a lot of hands-on activities. We play games. We go through a lot of different programs. We talk about anger. We talk about stress. We talk about time management and we do a lot of hands-on activities because the elementary kids really enjoy doing that."

Erin Cuffaro said you can see kids as young as 8 years old struggling and dealing with anxiety and depression and this program helps give them the assistance they need to deal with it.

"It's tremendous to get this into the grades schools. I feel like sometimes when we wait until they've gotten to the middle school we've missed that crucial time when we can actually dig in and make a difference in their lives. It's the time when they are eager to share and eager for somebody to know that they care about them and that they are there to help them on a daily basis," said Central Elementary School Principal, Erin Cuffaro.

The program consists of drug and alcohol prevention, anti-violence, suicide prevention and life skills.

Coordinators are able to identify at risk students and refer them for additional treatment as needed.

"Pretty much if you can think of an issue that an adult can have, our kids deal with the same things too. They deal with family problems," said Rager. "We work with kids with special needs. Kids with autism. Kids with poverty. All through the spectrum."

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