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PROJECT DEALING WITH ISSUES OF MENTAL HEALTH EARNS PRAISE

Pioneer High's School Support Project was recently honored as a top program in the state.

Project organizers had the chance to share their experiences during the School Support and School-Based Mental Health Programs training event, which was held recently in Albany.

The event was sponsored by the state Department of Education, Office of Mental Health, Department of Health, and Families Together in New York State. The School Support Project is a joint effort of the Cattaraugus County Department of Community Services and the Pioneer School District. The partnership was formed in 2003 following student suicides in 2002.

"The purpose of the program is to offer school-based mental health and support services to students who may have barriers to learning," said Sharon Huff, assistant principal.

School officials said barriers to learning include depression, anxiety, relationship problems and learning-related difficulties.

The program was made possible through the partnership with Cattaraugus County and other service providers, including the Children's Mental Health Coalition and Families Together in New York State.

Huff said the program offers individual counseling, family counseling and support and referral for psychiatric consultation.

More than 78 students and their families have received services, officials said.

"This program differs from many others in that services to students are able to be provided directly in the school," Huff said. "This alone has been instrumental in increasing the availability of services to students."

The School Support Program also integrates other Pioneer programs, including A-OK, character education, guidance counseling, the School Resource Team and the Student Support Team. The goal is to provide a continuum of support and services to students, officials said.

"Together we strive to meet the needs of our students, families, staff and community," Huff said.

For more information, residents can contact Jim Breen, social worker, at 492-9341, or Suzanne Pettie, family support worker, at 492-9329.

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