Morrow County Chamber of Commerce members heard a report at their Sept. 19 meeting by two mental health professionals from Syntero, Inc. who are dedicated to seeing students in the four Morrow County public school districts.
School clinician Rachael Barchus, MSW, LSW, spoke about the 13% of school age youth 13-18 who live with mental illness severe enough to affect their day-to-day lives. She said that in the United States only about 20% of those youth living with mental illness receive treatment.
Barchus and Sharon Dewey, LPCC-S, a clinical manager for Syntero, described how Syntero’s school-based program gives children and youth access to mental health services in Morrow County.
Dewey said many of their programs in the schools are preventive. They are in a classroom or with groups, developing skills to help a mental health issue from developing. An example she gave was how to deal with fear or anxiety and how breathing techniques are used to cope with anxiety.
Both Barchus and Dewey emphasized that Syntero clinicians work with the school, not for the school. They appreciate when teachers and staff alert them to a problem a child may be having.
When treatment or counseling is indicated, clinicians can provide mental health counseling to students who have a sliding fee or Medicaid. The issue needs to be school appropriate so students can return to class after a session. They noted that many students would not be able to have counseling services without it being available in the school.
A chamber member asked if there was a concern about students having a stigma attached to them if they have counseling. Dewey answered that they are careful in scheduling so students go to counseling at convenient times, and only the student can say where they have been so as not to give a stigma to counseling.
An advantage to working with children in the school is seeing them in their natural environment. Dewey said it is good working with younger children and seeing them build skills which can serve them in school and throughout their lives as well as helping them deal with future challenges.
Clinicians screen for crisis situations as well as work to prevent mental health issues. They screen for suicide ideation, develop safety plans, and meet with students to help them stabilize when needed.
There is a total of almost 5,000 children and youth in Morrow County public schools, and there are five Syntero clinicians who work in the four county school districts. Syntero is a nonprofit organization whose services are funded by the Delaware-Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Board as well as special contracts with individual school districts. During the 2022-2023 school year, Dewey said there were 2,465 prevention services provided in Morrow County with 300 students served by Syntero.
Syntero services are in Morrow, Delaware and Franklin counties with a total of 60 clinicians working in the three counties’ public schools. The word Syntero in Greek means support. The mission of Syntero is to advocate for and support the health and well-being of individuals, families and the community.
Syntero CEO Julie Erwin Rinaldi said they have opened an office for outpatient counseling at 245 Neal Ave. in Mount Gilead. They are presently hiring clinicians to expand services there.
In announcements, Chamber of Commerce Director Kristen Thompson thanked Mount Gilead KOA for hosting the Lunch and Learn meeting and reminded members of the following upcoming chamber events:
• Business After Hours at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at Cote Winery.
• Annual Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at Four Seasons Barn with a “Mask” theme.
• Lunch and Learn from noon to 1 p.m. Nov. 14 at Seniors on Center.
• Christmas Festival and Parade in Mount Gilead at 7 p.m. Dec. 1. Theme is “Christmas in Toyland.”
• Lunch and Learn from noon to 1 p.m. Dec. 12 at Lutheran Memorial Camp.
Alberta Stojkovic is a correspondent for The Morrow County Sentinel.