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Western Tidewater Community Services Board has much in store

Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final story in a series of stories about the Western Tidewater Community Services Board n examining who they are, what they do, who they help and what’s in store in the coming months.

The folks are a busy group, continually thinking of and working toward new ways to help the people of Suffolk, Isle of Wight County, Franklin and Southampton County.

As one of 40 community services boards across the state that work with people with mental retardation and those suffering from mental illnesses and substance abuse, they partner with a variety of local government departments and community organizations to assist as many people as much as possible.

In the coming months they have plans to expand and add a variety of services.

First is the Therapeutic Day Treatment Program, which provides individual, group and family therapy, a majority of which is done in the school setting. The goal is to help children in elementary through middle school improve behavior and social skill development, thereby improving attendance and academic performance while reducing the risk of suspension.

“The school system is really overburdened in terms of managing children’s behavior,” said Joe Scislowicz, clinical treatment services director.

That’s where WTCSB comes in. They have one behavioral specialist per six children who help provide year-round therapy, including summer programs. The specialists meet with the children once a day, every day and identify a goal for the day, such as going the whole day without hitting anyone, then working on techniques to meet the goal. The specialist follows each child to his or her classroom and remains, for the most part, within their line of sight, Scislowicz said.

“The beauty of this is it allows the teacher to teach.”

To qualify for the program children must live in the area, be under 21, be at risk of removal from their school or community, have an emotional or behavioral disorder, have a parent or guardian available and willing to participate in services, and more.

The program started in Franklin and expanded to Isle of Wight County and Oakland Elementary School in Suffolk. By the end of this year, WTCSB will have counselors in more Suffolk elementary and middle schools, he said.

Currently, the program does not serve high school students, but they are planning, through the Mental Health Support Services, in the coming year to have counselors available to work one-on-one with teens through an in-home setting, Scislowicz said.

Another change that likely will come even sooner is the provision of more outpatient services. Some would be geared toward clients with substance abuse issues where they would meet for daily group and individual treatments.

Over the years, the amount of one-on-one counseling at WTCSB and other facilities like it has declined because of rising expenses, Scislowicz said. They plan to add staff and begin providing short-term individual counseling, offering the service to the working poor with no insurance coverage on a sliding scale, he said.

This also could be a service offered by the free clinic that is in the works. In May WTCSB joined with the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community and other organizations to start working toward a free clinic that would bring medical, dental and mental health care to uninsured, low-income residents in all of Western Tidewater.

Scislowicz said for extreme cases, such as people who are suicidal, they are in the process of renovating a new four-bed house in Suffolk that would be Crisis Intervention House.

“(Hospitalization) is not always the best course of treatment for people,” he explained, adding that treatment in a more local environment can be more beneficial is some cases.

Also, it would be a place for clients to go after hospitalization if they still were in need of treatment.

“It’s a pretty exciting time,” Scislowicz said. “We don’t rest on our laurels.”

ashley.taylor@suffolknewsherald.com