Chat about mental health program for Lawrence schools

July 25, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Charlie Kuszmaul, program coordinator for the WRAP program, will join us at 2 p.m. Wednesday for an online chat about the program that puts mental health care professionals in local schools. A federal grant that has supported the program is about to run out, and organizers are now looking for a permanent financial commitment to WRAP from the city, county and school district.

Moderator:

This is 6 News Reporter Laura McHugh. Charlie's here. Thank you for joining us.

Moderator:

Could you begin by explaining the current funding situation for the WRAP Program?

Charlie Kaszmaul:

The current funding situation is that the WRAP program has funding from several different sources that include grants from the state, funds from the city, county, school district and Bert Nash MHC. This funding is sufficient to keep the program going for the fall semester of school.

Stew:

What would be the consequences of this program no longer existing? Please give a quantitative not qualitative answer (e.g., percent increase in student depression or percent decrease in academic achievement).

Charlie Kaszmaul:

Well it is difficult to answer that question when I don't have the data in front of me at this time. We do keep stats on the WRAP program but even with that it would be difficult to predict the future, much as predicting what the economy might do or the stock market. If you are interested I could email you the data that we do have on the success or changes in the students we work with. I just don't want to give inaccurate information.

tanzer:

What kinds of outcomes can be attributed to WRAP? Has there been a reduction in the number of children receiving full mental health services from community mental health, a reduction in children placed in BD classrooms, a reduction in suicide attempts, etc. within the Lawrence school district that can be tied to WRAP? These are the kinds of outcomes city officials would have a difficult time ignoring and would greatly benefit the potential continuance of WRAP beyond the grant funding years.

Charlie Kaszmaul:

Well again it is always difficult to demonstrate the absence of something. I don't want to seem evasive, but this is always the problem in prevention of anything. Also, the WRAP program has been in place for 10 years and so it would be difficult to establish a base line to compare our success to. We can supply data about the changes that have taken place in the children we have worked with. We do testing on a sample of the students we work with (with parental permission) with an instrument called the BASC Behavioral Assessment System for Children that shows that overall there is a decrease in emotional symptoms in the children we work with. I would hope that we wouldn't have to show a decrease in suicides in that even one suicide is far too many.

dorothyhr:

They got rid of the alternative High School and now WRAP. What is going to happen to all these kids? Are there any grants out there to keep WRAP going? You guys do a great service to our kids.

Charlie Kaszmaul:

We have utilized many types of grants in the past and even now we get a small amount of money through a grant. But, the intention of grants is to demonstrate that something you are doing is effective and then it is expected that the local community should provide funding. My thinking is that these are our kids, this is our community, we shouldn't expect other people to pay for our children. I don't think we should depend on the good will or generosity of strangers!

kugrad:

Is it possible that a reduced WRAP program could target schools with high rates students who qualify for free (and reduced) lunch? I realize mental health problems exist among all socioeconomic classes, but I suspect the need is greatest among the poorest students.

Charlie Kaszmaul:

You are correct that socioeconomic status is a significant factor in both the development of mental health problems as well as the ability/opportunity for help with the problem. In the WRAP program we see a much high percentage of minority children than are even seen at the Mental Health center (yes we keep and run comparisons). We work with the school district in determining where we can best serve the students in the district and SES is one of the factors that is put into the equation. It is even given a high weight than other factors. We see around 3,000 students in an average year, some for very serious problems (suicide, abuse, depression, cutting behavior and all other types of problems) and these students span the range of SES and other factors. I have been asked at times "Which kids are at risk?' and my answer is always, all of them are at risk!!

Moderator:

You mentioned earlier that funding is sufficient through the fall semester. What happens after that if things remain unchanged? What are the prospects that something will change between now and then?

Charlie Kaszmaul:

If "unchanged" you mean that we don't receive continuing funding then the program will be either drastically reduced or ended all together. There is a tipping point where there really isn't a "program" if there are only one or two staff. The prospects for further funding are really up to the school board and the city at this point. The County has been able to provide funding for the WRAP program. This is really a question that could best be directed to the school board and the city commissioners.

Moderator:

How many people are currently on staff -- and how many would have to be let go if no more funding is made available?

Charlie Kaszmaul:

There are currently 21 people on staff with some being part time. The funding of the WRAP program is really dependent on local funding and so if the funding from the school, city and county stops then the remaining funding for Lawrence would be virtually gone and so all staff would be let go.

kugrad:

Has the school district looked at cutting elementary counselors as a way to fund Wrap? My understanding is that many elementary teachers see more benefit from Wrap than from the elementary counselors.

Charlie Kaszmaul:

I really can't say what the school district has looked at as ways to fund WRAP, that is really something for them to look at and make decisions about. As far as the school counselors go we are all part of a team that work together to help students be successful in school and life. If you have a team, say a basketball team, what member of the team would you not want to put on the floor and still play the game? It is similar to that.

Moderator:

How confident are you in the WRAP program continuing at its current level after this year?

Charlie Kaszmaul:

Well, it is difficult to answer that question. I know there are many different things tugging at the various bodies that decide on funding in this community. I think it is important for them to remember that what we are asking for in an investment in the human infrastructure of our community. These children and their problems won't go away. Like many problems that go unattended in life they will only get more expensive over time. Expensive in that these kids will grow up and be less productive as members of our community, therefore generating less income for themselves and our community, and they will use up more of our resources in that they will use the emergency room more often, be involved in crime more often and thing like that. With help they can be come very strong contributing members or they can just use more of all our resources. The old line is "Pay me now or pay me later!"

Moderator:

That's all the time we have for today's chat. Our thanks to Charlie for joining us.

Comments

Paula Kissinger 8 years ago

In reviewing the budget proposals from the school district, I noticed that there is no funding shown specifically for the WRAP program in their 2008 budget. What I did see in the school district's budget is that they are proposing an increase of $128,275.00 for their summer school program and an increase of $1,137,461.00 for their food service budget, unless, somehow I have misread the online budget. This seems excessive to me and I believe that WRAP funding can be found there. I plan on addressing this to them. I also plan on asking them how they can reneg on a promise to our children and to me personally as I petitioned for the WRAP funding to never stop last January at their board meeting and was assured that such a worthwhile program would be in the forefront of their budget concerns for the years to come. I do not appreciate being lied to and our community needs to be aware of this. Again the talk is always about the concern of doing what is best for our children but the actions contradict this allegation.

The general public also needs to be aware that the City of Lawrence has reduced the proposed amount of WRAP funding by almost $100,000. yet there are several agencies that are getting double fundings from several sources. Mr. Corless' allegation that Bert Nash "does not have the City's fiscal pressures" so the city should not have to "bear an additional burden for financing your worthy services" statement is not concurrent with the city's philosophies of partnership and detrimental to the welfare of the children of the city of Lawrence. As taxpaying parents who also pay huge amounts of tuition and school fees and spend thousands of dollars for incidentals for our children to attend school by patronizing local merchants we need to stand together for causes that benefit so many of our children. The WRAP program is a necessity in our schools and the WRAP workers serve every child in need, not just those who have participated in the program previously. At any given time a child is going to have a serious problem that the school personnel are not qualified to deal with. It happens every day in every school and people need to be more aware of this program and the benefits their children are receiving from it.

God bless the county commissioners who have remained solid in their commitment to the WRAP program and their funding support. The commissioners obviously understand how this program has averted situations in our schools that have become tragedies in other communities. The city would be wise to review this and realize that the children they are shortchanging in the WRAP program are the future leaders or habitual criminals of this city. Charlie was right in saying "pay me now or pay me later".

Paula Kissinger 8 years ago

My motive is to tell everyone that their children are being cheated out of beneficial services and that they, the parents, are once again being lied to by the school district and by the city officials. Promising to fund a program and then decreasing the funding amount for lesser causes is a lie at the core, no matter how you sugarcoat it. My motive is to secure the WRAP funding again and make sure it never ceases. I continue to pledge my unending support of the WRAP program and want others to follow my lead. My son will graduate high school in 3 years but I will continue to see that this program will remain in effect in all of the schools. It is an absolute necessity. My son was the child that was left behind. The school district failed him, the teachers failed him, the administrators failed him, the resource officer failed him, the school psychologist failed him...the WRAP worker DID NOT fail him. Integrity prevents me from failing the WRAP program and I encourage you other parents to verbally and financially support this program.

Paula Kissinger 8 years ago

"Daaaaaaang:and what about the parent? Did the parent fail him too?"

You have the audacity after reading my posts to suggest that I failed my own child ? NO...I would be the parent that for 4 years tried to get him an IEP but was repeatedly denied by the school district, misinformed of services that were available, and, at times down right lied to. I am the parent that at my son's discharge meeting at KUMC from a 6-day stay in the inpatient adolescent psych ward after having a complete breakdown at school received an apology from my son's school psychologist stating "I'm so sorry...we just didn't see it" after I repeatedly requested he be evaluated for services beneficial to him. I have since discovered that I am not alone and that there are many children being overlooked. The "village" that is quoted to take to raise a child has too many idiots as far as I'm concerned...at least in our village of Lawrence.

KsTwister 8 years ago

Am I to understand that other Kansas schools without the WRAP program are failures? I sincerely doubt that too. I agree with the pitbullgrandma this is program to supplement other programs of their desire. Lawrence schools have been given much more tax dollars then many in this State and given less to our children then to buildings and salaries.

TheYetiSpeaks 8 years ago

In a time when school shootings run rampant and the people are all left with no answers to the questions "Why is this happening?" or "What could we have done?", the WRAP program is a giant proactive step to ensuring that these children get the attention that they deserve and the City of Lawrence is about to turn their back on it...What a shame.

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