DGS Staff and Outreach in Delaware

DGS Staff and Outreach in Delaware

A huge thank you to Malia Boone, Brandy Beatty, and Sara Heinicke for representing DGS at the AKA Zeta Omega Mental Health Forum on the Delaware State University campus.

AND, Michael Hoffa and Sammi Becker met with community members at the Food Bank of Delaware‘s Resource and Job Fair in Milford.
DGS Staff and Outreach in Delaware
Their enthusiastic outreach ensures the services and opportunities provided by DGS are easily available to #Delawarians. Thank you all for representing DGS so well!
Walk With Us

Walk With Us

Join the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and it’s Delaware Chapter for the annual ‘Out of the Darkness Walk. Raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention. Funds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and its Delaware Chapter.

  • September 22 – Wilmington Walk at Delcastle Recreational Park. Register Here
  • October 19 – Milford Walk at Bicentennial Park. Register Here
Information Sessions about MRSS Crisis Program

Information Sessions about MRSS Crisis Program


Please join 𝐌𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐚 𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐧𝐞, Program Manager of the Mobile Response and Stabilization Services (MRSS) Youth Crisis Program at Delaware Guidance Services, for an information session about the 𝐌𝐑𝐒𝐒 𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐢𝐬 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐦.
Participants will learn about the statewide, 24/7 services available through MRSS as well as recommended best practices in crisis intervention services for children and youth.
Time will be provided for questions and answers related to the specific situations schools encounter when supporting children in crisis.
Meetings via Zoom:
October 23, 3:30p-4:30p
October 26, 2:30p-3:30p
November 1, 10a-11a
A Collaborative Community that meets students where they are

A Collaborative Community that meets students where they are

Dear Community,

As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to every one of you who invests time and resources to address this critical health need that impacts everyone, regardless of race or zip code. By working hand in hand with our community, we create a comprehensive and nurturing environment where young minds flourish.

Together, we will continue our focus on increasing access to quality care by increasing awareness, removing barriers, and dismantling stigmas related to mental wellness. No organization can do it alone, but together, we can transform lives.

Warmest regards,
Linda Jennings
Community Education Building, CEO

Download the May 2023 Issue (PDF)

DGS’s and CEB New Partnership

DGS’s and CEB New Partnership

We’d like to thank all who came out to celebrate our partnership (and new space) at the Community Building. This new collaboration only strengthens our ability to provide quality behavioral health services for our Delaware youth and their families.
Student mental health crisis much vaster

Student mental health crisis much vaster

The crisis of student mental health is much vaster than we realize


The change was gradual. At first, Riana Alexander was always tired. Then she began missing classes. She had been an honors student at her Arizona high school, just outside Phoenix. But last winter, after the isolation of remote learning, then the overload of a full-on return to school, her grades were slipping. She wasn’t eating a lot. She avoided friends.

Her worried mother searched for mental health treatment. Finally, in the spring, a three-day-a-week intensive program for depression helped the teenager steady herself and “want to get better,” Alexander said. Then, as she was finding her way, a girl at her school took her own life. Then a teen elsewhere in the district did the same. Then another.

“It just broke my heart that there were three different people who were going through what I was, and they never got the chance to heal,” said Alexander, 17, now a high school senior.

Riana Alexander, a 17-year-old organizer with Arizona Students for Mental Health, was struggling with her mental health last winter. (Caitlin O’Hara for The Washington Post)

After that devastating stretch in May, families and classmates in the Chandler Unified School District mourned the three 15-year-olds. They would enjoy no more summer vacations, no birthdays or graduations. The losses ignited a debate about what schools should be doing to support students in despair.

Nationally, adolescent depression and anxiety — already at crisis levels before the pandemic — have surged amid the isolation, disruption and hardship of covid-19. Even as federal coronavirus relief money has helped schools step up their efforts to aid students, they also have come up short. It’s unclear how much money is going to mental health, how long such efforts will last or if they truly reach those who struggle most.

“The need is real, the need is dire,” said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, who recalled hearing just that day from the district’s mental health partners that calls about suicidal thoughts had quadrupled. “We’re living through historically unprecedented times,” he said.

More than 75 percent of schools surveyed in spring said their teachers and staff have voiced concerns about student depression, anxiety and trauma, according to federal data. Nearly as many schools cited a jump in the number of students seeking mental health services.

But mental health is not the only pandemic priority. Schools are spending vast sums of their coronavirus relief money on ventilation upgrades, expanded summer learning, after-school programs, tutors and academic specialists.

The federal spending plans of 5,000 school districts nationally show that more than one-third intend to bring new mental health professionals into schools, and about 30 percent plan to fund social-emotional learning efforts, according to an analysis by FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.

“This is an incredible increase in the amount of money being spent and the number of districts pursuing it,” Phyllis Jordan, associate director of FutureEd said. But it is still, advocates say, not nearly enough.

“We simply don’t have enough people in our profession to meet the need.”

— Kelsey Theis, president of the Texas Association of School Psychologists

In many areas, even when money is in hand, hiring is not easy. As this school year opened, nearly 20 percent of schools reported vacancies in mental health positions, according to federal data. Schools often said they employed too few staff to manage the caseload but also complained about difficulties finding licensed providers, the data showed.

“We simply don’t have enough people in our profession to meet the need,” said Kelsey Theis, president of the Texas Association of School Psychologists. When families seek private therapists, “sometimes there’s a wait list of months and months before they get help,” she said.

In Maine, waiting lists grew so long last year that school counselor Tara Kierstead began looking out of state for therapists who had openings — a solution that was not practical for many families.

“It was the hardest I’ve ever had to work to get resources to people,” Kierstead said. “I know some kids who were never seen.”

Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy called out the “devastating” effects of the pandemic on youth mental health in a public advisory last December. Earlier that year, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association together declared “a national state of emergency” in children’s mental health. They pointed out that young people of color were especially affected and linked the struggle for racial justice to the worsening crisis.

A year later, this October, they sounded the alarm again. Things are not getting better.

A deepening crisis

Not long after the pandemic started, researchers began to document declines in child and adolescent mental health. The numbers are stark.

Hospital emergency room visits spiked for suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From February to March 2021, the number jumped by 51 percent compared with the same period during 2019. For boys, the increase was 4 percent. Early research from MIT suggested the suicide rate for people aged 10 to 19 increased in 2020, compared with before the pandemic. More recently, CDC provisional data for 2021 showed an increase in the national rate from 2020 to 2021, especially for people ages 15 to 24.

In other research, the CDC found nearly 45 percent of high school students were so persistently sad or hopeless in 2021 they were unable to engage in regular activities. Almost 1 in 5 seriously considered suicide, and 9 percent of the teenagers surveyed by the CDC tried to take their lives during the previous 12 months. A substantially larger percentage of gay, lesbian, bisexual, other and questioning students reported a suicide attempt.

Family upheaval, meanwhile, was widespread, particularly in the early pandemic: Nearly 30 percent of students said an adult in their home had lost a job, and 24 percent said they went hungry for a lack of food.

There are no directly comparable pre-pandemic studies, but Kathleen Ethier, the CDC’s director of the division of adolescent and school health, said student well-being is significantly better for teens who report feeling connected to their schools — a problem for a population that, nationwide, was kept out of them for so long.

“There is 20 years of research showing that it not only has an impact on how young people do while they’re adolescents, but it has 20-year impacts on all kinds of measures of health,” including emotional well-being, suicidality and substance use, she said.

It also left many children grieving. More than 230,000 U.S. students under 18 are believed to be mourning the ultimate loss: the death of a parent or primary caregiver in a pandemic-related loss, according to research by the CDC, Imperial College London, Harvard University, Oxford University and the University of Cape Town. In the United States, children of color were hit the hardest, another study found. It estimated that the loss for Black and Hispanic children was nearly twice the rate for White children.

Too much need, too little help

In Maryland, Julia Horton, 16, recalls that, as her struggles worsened last year, she fell asleep in class a lot and did not turn in work; her grades dropped. Looking back, she said, “it is very obvious it was a cry for help.” Some teachers were compassionate, but others less so. “A lot of teachers talk about understanding mental illness, but they don’t act upon it,” she said.

Her school in suburban Montgomery County had two mental health professionals within its wellness center, county officials said, but Horton — like many students — had no idea. She talked to a counselor she liked about getting more time for assignments but it did not help. Her mother ultimately found her an excellent therapist to help Horton with her depression and anxiety, but she wonders about other teens who may not be as fortunate.

Montgomery County school officials said they inform students about mental health services through community messages, their website, student forums and advisory period lessons — though school board member Lynne Harris said messaging should be more robust and focused on platforms students use most.

In Philadelphia, Mikayla Jones, then 15, took care of her father in spring 2020 when he caught covid-19 and she had little contact with teachers and friends during remote learning. She wanted to talk to a therapist, but her mother couldn’t find one with an opening and she’d never heard of any mental health specialist at school. “I feel like this should not be something that’s possible,” she said. Now a 17-year-old senior, Jones is starting a club to advocate for mental health support across Philadelphia’s schools. “All youth deserve someone to be there for them.”

Philadelphia officials said counselors were meeting with students virtually or in person during the pandemic to assess their needs and help decide next steps. Still, the high school senior never found a therapist. The first meeting of her mental health support club will be later this month.

Told about the school system’s comment, the teenager said: “If the school does not communicate the availability of counselors, and their role as counselor has been repeatedly labeled as ‘college counselor,’ then how will we know that they are there as a mental health resource?”

Shortages of mental health professionals have been the norm in schools. Professional organizations recommend one school psychologist per 500 students, but the national average is one per 1,160 students, with some states approaching one per 5,000. Similarly, the recommended ratio of one school counselor per 250 students is not widespread. The national average: one per 415 students.

National research from 2019 showed that students of color have not received equal access to school counselors. At that time, 38 states were shortchanging students of color, students from low-income families or both, according to the study done by the Education Trust.

As the pandemic has persisted, students have spoken out — in Nebraska, Arizona, Connecticut and Washington.

In Seattle, students who formed the Seattle Student Union to promote racial justice decided this year to push for mental health support in schools. Chetan Soni, a 17-year-old who co-founded the union, said there are too few mental health professionals to meet rising student needs. The district told him it doesn’t have the money, he said.

Seattle teachers, who went on strike in September, included a call for more mental health support for students as one of their bargaining points. The strike settlement included part-time social workers at most schools — a sign of progress, Soni said, but not enough to help all. “Students are suffering from the pandemic and so many other things too,” he said.

His school, Lincoln High, is fortunate in having a school-based health clinic, run by Neighborcare Health. But just one therapist works there, said Rachel Gordon, the company’s school-based mental health clinical manager. Nearly all therapists based at Seattle’s schools have full caseloads and wait lists, Gordon said. Many run group therapy sessions as a way to serve more students. “We’ve seen increases in anxiety, disordered eating, suicidal ideation, OCD and many other mental health challenges,” she said.

In rural Montana, the squeeze was different: Altacare, a for-profit provider, decided to halt services in the state this year amid recruitment difficulties and funding issues. Districts scrambled to cover for the loss, but many could not, and state officials were limited in what they could do. “Unfortunately, they were serving a lot of the very small rural schools that were already struggling,” said Mary Windecker, executive director of the nonprofit Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana.

The shortages meant that Montana kids who needed residential care, for the most serious mental illnesses, were mostly being sent to other states, she said. “Not because we don’t have beds for those children but because we don’t have people to staff those kids,” she said. “Imagine a six-year-old with a serious emotional disturbance being sent as far away as Georgia. That’s happening.”

One result of all these deficiencies: More students are acting out. Last school year, nearly 40 percent of schools nationally reported increases in physical attacks or fights, and roughly 60 percent reported more disruptions in class because of student misconduct, according to federal data. Las Vegas officials reported several alarming attacks on teachers. In Louisiana, fathers at a Shreveport school showed up to help keep the peace after a particularly heated week of student fighting.

National test scores also plummeted to levels not seen since 1999, according to recent data — setting off a wave of alarm among educators, many of whom consider the mental health crisis a contributing factor.

Full Article HERE 

World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month

Join the conversation and help spread awareness of suicide prevention!

In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, the Delaware Children’s Department is raising awareness of suicide warning signs and helpful resources, especially during this unprecedented global pandemic.

“COVID-19 has magnified the many stressors families grapple with daily, from financial stress to relationship stress, and so much more. We know that mental health and wellness have been impacted over the last six months and therefore we must be proactive and encourage children and families to reach out if they are struggling,” said Josette Manning, Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, also known as the Delaware Children’s Department.  “No one has to go through this alone.  Reach out to the Child Priority Response Line at 1-800-969-HELP or text DE to 741-741. Help – and hope – is only a call or text away.”

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death nationwide, and second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24. Every World Suicide Prevention Day, observed on September 10, is an opportunity build community and share support. To start, you can use the acronym FACTS (feelings, action, changes, threats, situations) to learn the warning signs for suicidal behavior. You can find more information online at this link, but here are a few examples:

  • Feelings: Helplessness; worthlessness; fear of hurting oneself or others
  • Action: Drug or alcohol abuse; talking or writing about death/destruction; recklessness
  • Changes: (examples) Changes in personality, behavior; loss of interest in friends and hobbies once enjoyed
  • Threats: Like “I won’t be around much longer”; plans like giving away favorite things; suicide attempts like overdosing, wrist cutting
  • Situations: Getting into trouble at school, at home, with the law; recent loss through death, divorce; the break-up of a relationship; losing an opportunity, dream

“To our caregivers and teens throughout Delaware – please know that you don’t have to wait to reach out for help. If you are struggling, help is available 24/7,” said Jill Rogers, executive director of Delaware Guidance Services, the provider that partners with DSCYF to manage the Child Priority Response Line. “If you recognize any signs of suicidal behavior, please reach out. Our crisis clinicians are training to help families work through crisis situations and direct them to needed resources. Together, we can help Delaware families get through this difficult period.”

In the last few years, Delaware has implemented several youth prevention initiatives as a result of the Project SAFETY grant, a federally-funded suicide prevention program. The grant program concluded in June, but Delaware was able to sustain the following services through community partnerships. Here are some of the accomplishments and outcomes:

  • Coordinating more than 27,000 online suicide prevention trainings for school personnel since 2017
  • Initiating about 8,000 mental health screenings of youth and screening initiatives at 44 organizations such as schools, mobile crisis units and the children’s hospital
  • Bolstering crisis services in Kent and Sussex County
  • Providing better coordination of services for youth from inpatient to outpatient care
  • Implementing a Crisis Text Line service for Delaware youth; From June 2016 to June 2020, the text line logged 1,744 text conversations and nine active rescues have taken place as a result of text line conversations
  • Creating a mental health-focused website – www.mentalhealthde.com – which is now managed by Mental Health Association in Delaware

“We know that Delawareans are in pain; our youth in particular have had to face so many changes to their day-to-day routines and activities. It’s important to check in, ask questions about mental health and just be there for one another. Death by suicide is the most preventable form of death,” said Yolanda Jenkins, Manager of Provider Services for the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services and one of the leads on the Project SAFETY grant.

“I’m grateful for the work of Project SAFETY to help lay the groundwork for these important prevention services. Due to the grant, the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services continues to offer the Crisis Text Line and partner with the Mental Health Association in Delaware on suicide prevention trainings, among other efforts. I look forward to these continued provider and partner collaborations for Delaware’s children, youth and families.”

If a child or youth is in crisis or contemplating suicide, please seek immediate help. We are in this together, and you are not alone.

“Now, more than ever, it is important that we normalize talking about mental health and asking the tough questions. When it comes to talking about suicide and being concerned about someone’s actions and/or behaviors, it is important that we intervene and get the person the help he or she needs. Never push to tomorrow a conversation you can have today. We must continue to come together as a community and create a safer state,” said Jennifer Smolowitz, Project Director for Suicide Prevention at the Mental Health Association in Delaware.

Please see the below resources:

  • Delaware’s 24-hour Child Priority Response Hotline: 1-800-969-HELP (4357)
  • Crisis Text Line: Text DE to 741741
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255)
  • Delaware Division of Substance Abuse & Mental Health Crisis Intervention Services – Mobile Crisis (for those age 18 or older):
    • Statewide: (800) 652-2929
    • New Castle County: (302) 577-2484
    • Kent/Sussex County: (800) 345-6785
  • Delaware Hope Line: 1 (833) 9-HOPEDE or (833) 946-7333
  • Mental Health Association in Delaware: Statewide: (302) 654-6833

Media Contact: Jen Rini, jen.rini@delaware.gov

Posted from September, 2020 | Read Original Post Here

Project Innovation Winner

Project Innovation Winner

Delaware Guidance Services implements new Collaborative Problem Solving Approach within their Outpatient/Therapeutic Support for Families (OPTSF) program.

Delaware Guidance Services for Children and Youth (DGS) received a $25,000 Project Innovation grant from NBC10, Telemundo62, and the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation for its Outpatient/Therapeutic Support for Families (OPTSF) program. The funding will be directed towards implementing the Collaborative Problem Solving Approach within their program.

The OPTSF program has been in existence for 23 years and serves children who require more intensive care and for patients where traditional outpatient care has not been successful. The Collaborative Problem Solving Approach is a unique model that focuses on cognitive skill deficits to help patients respond to outcomes across multiple settings such as at home and school. Patients and their families are assigned a clinician team where the clinician will go directly to their home and treat the client. OPTSF’s services last for approximately eight to 12 months, preparing families to resolve future challenges on their own with the proper tools.

Delaware Guidance Services for Children and Youth is one of the oldest and largest non-profit organizations in the state of Delaware, assisting children and families for more than 65 years. The organization provides care for more than 10,000 Delaware children through 100,000 visits each year. DGS aspires to build resilient families through their services ranging from traditional outpatient counseling to crisis response.

To support DGS’s mission, click here.

DGS Awarded $25K Project Innovation Grant

DGS Awarded $25K Project Innovation Grant

We’re excited to announce that Delaware Guidance Services (DGS) has been awarded a $25,000 grant from #ProjectInnovation @NBCUFoundation. DGS is proud to be the only Delaware recipient of these grant funds, which will be used to implement the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach to better support children in therapy.

Trauma Awareness Month

Trauma Awareness Month

May 2021 is the third annual Trauma Awareness Month in Delaware. This year includes a series of webinars, the Compassionate Champion Awards, a State Agency Summit and more events and opportunities to recognize the work taking place across the state. This is a time to celebrate the exceptional trauma efforts accomplished to date, share best practices and resources for trauma-informed care, and learn how trauma-informed practices can enhance organizations, for both staff and service recipients. 𝑇𝑟𝑎𝑢𝑚𝑎 𝐴𝑤𝑎𝑟𝑒𝑛𝑒𝑠𝑠 𝑀𝑜𝑛𝑡ℎ 𝑖𝑠 𝑐𝑜-𝑠𝑝𝑜𝑛𝑠𝑜𝑟𝑒𝑑 𝑏𝑦 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝐹𝑎𝑚𝑖𝑙𝑦 𝑆𝑒𝑟𝑣𝑖𝑐𝑒𝑠 𝐶𝑎𝑏𝑖𝑛𝑒𝑡 𝐶𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑐𝑖𝑙 (𝐹𝑆𝐶𝐶) 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑇𝑟𝑎𝑢𝑚𝑎 𝑀𝑎𝑡𝑡𝑒𝑟𝑠 𝐷𝑒𝑙𝑎𝑤𝑎𝑟𝑒 (𝑇𝑀𝐷).

𝗨𝗽𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗘𝘃𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀 / 𝗥𝗲𝗴𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻:

𝗦𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝗿𝗮𝘂𝗺𝗮-𝗜𝗻𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗲𝗱 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗪𝗲𝗯𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗿
May 5, 2021 · 12:00pm – 1:00pm · Via Zoom
Register HERE

𝗣𝗼𝗿𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗶𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗳𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗖𝗔𝗥𝗘𝗴𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘀: 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗣𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻, 𝗧𝗵𝗲𝗶𝗿 𝗣𝗮𝗶𝗻 𝗪𝗲𝗯𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗿
May 12 · 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Register HERE Session A

May 12 · 5:00pm – 6:30pm · Via Zoom
Register HERE Session B

𝗕𝗹𝘂𝗲𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗻𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗧𝗿𝗮𝘂𝗺𝗮-𝗜𝗻𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗲𝗱 𝗛𝗶𝗴𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗘𝗱𝘂𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗪𝗲𝗯𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗿
May 19, 2021 · 10:00am – 11:00am · Via Zoom
Register HERE

𝗧𝗼𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱𝘀 𝗮 𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗺𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗛𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗪𝗲𝗯𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗿
May 26, 2021 · 10:00am – 11:00am · Via Zoom
Register HERE