In March 2021, Lifeways began offering in-school mental health services on-site at four elementary schools (Aiken, Alameda, Cairo and Pioneer), at Ontario Middle School, and at the Four Rivers Community School (serving elementary thru high school students).

We worked with Malheur Education District and Ontario School District representatives to develop a system to get more Ontario students referred and enrolled quickly.

The data we have about school enrollment as a whole in Malheur County indicates that Lifeways was serving approximately 90 Malheur County students in April of 2021. The majority represented students in Ontario, Nyssa and Vale. During our work with the schools, our providers received 44 referrals and enrolled about 19 students by the end of the academic year. A large proportion of these students and their families chose to remain enrolled at the end of the academic year and continue to benefit from Lifeways services.

These services were provided by clinicians Diane Smith and Sam Galan. Both Sam and Diane have expressed their pleasure in working with all schools involved but also explaining how beneficial their presence in the schools was.

“Not only was providing services at the school helpful for parents so they didn’t have to pull their children out of school for the day for appointments, I also believe being at the schools normalizes the importance of taking care of mental health”, said Diane. “The school staff was on board and were very understanding for their students to take some time out of their studies to come down for counseling. One day, I was asked to counsel a student that was having a ‘rough day.’ I was happy to be able to provide this service in such a timely manner.”

Sam says that accessibility and in-person relationship building, during a time when kids needed it and have responded well to it, when speaking about what he believed was beneficial about providing services on-site at the schools.

“Not only was providing services at the school helpful for parents so they didn’t have to pull their children out of school for the day for appointments, I also believe being at the schools normalizes the importance of taking care of mental health,” Diane Smith said regarding the importance of Lifeways’ presence in these schools.

Lifeways is here for anybody anywhere and will meet people where they are at and are striving to make the community a better place for all.

Lifeways is a behavioral health and addiction treatment provider. Citizens can submit questions for the column to editor@argusobserver.com with “safety” in the subject line or by calling them in to (541) 823-4818. The opinions and views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Argus Observer.

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