Access to mental health care is a challenge, and it’s an issue that doesn’t just affect adults. There are a number of options for treatment for children in the Las Vegas valley.
But one non-profit group is standing out in the mental health field. United Citizens Foundation started its first school-based services at valley high school in 2016.
Last year, they had expanded to three schools, and this year, they’ll be in six. As mental health becomes a larger part of the conversation, UCF is doing its best to fill a void.
Development and community outreach director Shari Brown says while many schools have counselors, United Citizens Foundation focuses on bringing therapists to the students.
“They are trained and have licenses to be able to do those types of therapies with students who are in need of the services,” Brown said.
“Mental Health is one of those things that crosses all boundaries,” said Mark Saindon, the clinical director of UCF.
Saindon is one of five therapists who work in the six schools within the Clark County School District that have so far partnered with UCF.
According to Saindon, last year, the foundation’s therapists conducted 1,200 sessions with students, and that was only spread among three schools.
He says that’s proof the need exceeds what the school counselors can handle on their own.
“So they can only see the kids maybe 15 minutes at a time, where we can see kids up to an hour at a time and really dig in and deal with some of the more serious mental health issues,” Saindon said.
UCF’s operations are funded primarily by state grant money, which has been stretched to double the number of schools it can serve.
The services are free to students and come at no cost to schools.
Hollingsworth Steam Academy’s assistant principal says the results speak for themselves.
“It helps their academic achievement because they’re able to be here at school and be functional, and build those coping skills that they need,” said Mia Nelson, assistant principal at Hollingsworth Elementary School.
Nelson says past efforts were often hindered by a stigma of seeking help for mental health or substance abuse counseling, But UCF’s in-school services will remove many of those barriers.
“Our parents were just not following through with the counseling resources, but having UCF here, in-house, it really is priceless having them here,” said Nelson.
UCF also operates two community clinics that are open to the general public as well as students.
If you’d like more information about the United Citizens Foundation and its services go here.