Archive for Monday, January 23, 2006

Funding for counseling program in jeopardy

January 23, 2006


When a Lawrence public school student is suicidal, depressed because parents are fighting, or burdened with other weighty problems, a counselor is on hand to help.

"Lawrence isn't Lake Wobegon," said Charlie Kuszmaul, a program coordinator for Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, referring to the fictional locale where all children are above average. "We like to think it is, but it isn't."

But the money that funded the counseling program, which many consider essential to Lawrence schools, is drying up.

"We need to come up with an alternate source of funding. If we don't, the program will end or be reduced to a fraction of what it is now," Kuszmaul said.

The program's federal grant ends at the close of the school year. Kuszmaul is program coordinator for Bert Nash's WRAP program. WRAP is the acronym for Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities. Thanks to the program, every student in a Lawrence public school has ready access to a full- or part-time mental health counselor.

In Kansas, no other school district offers as much access to as many counselors.

"I don't know what we'd do without WRAP," said Carol Souders, a seventh-grade English teacher at Central Junior High.

Julie Heatwole works in the Lawrence school district's WRAP counseling program at Quail Run and Langston Hughes schools. The program's grant ends at the close of the school year.

Julie Heatwole works in the Lawrence school district's WRAP counseling program at Quail Run and Langston Hughes schools. The program's grant ends at the close of the school year.

"I send kids to our WRAP worker all the time because they have issues I can't handle," she said. "I have my hands full being a teacher. I'm not a social worker."

Routinely, the counselors help students cope with depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, death, divorce, domestic violence and thoughts of suicide.

Request for funding

On Monday, Kuszmaul and his boss, Bert Nash CEO Dave Johnson, plan to ask the Lawrence school board to set aside $350,000 for WRAP.

"It's a critical step for us," Johnson said. "I don't think we'd get very far with the rest of the community if the school district wasn't on board."

To continue, WRAP needs about $800,000 annually.

Johnson said he hoped to also approach the city, county and private sector for funding.

Carving $350,000 out of the school district's budget won't be easy.

"It'll go up on the big board with a lot of other things," said Lawrence public schools Supt. Randy Weseman. "It'll all come down to setting priorities."

Already, school officials are under intense pressure to raise teacher salaries. And last week, several parents urged the board to get behind a sports complex that's expected to cost millions of dollars.

"WRAP is a great program," Weseman said. "But we have a lot a great programs that are grant-funded and, sooner or later, they're all going to want to be picked up.

"The question becomes: What do you do when your wants are unlimited and your resources are limited?"

Tapping the city and county coffers won't be any easier.

"It will be very difficult for WRAP or anybody else to get the county commission to replace grant money - that's my opinion," said Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson.

"And it has nothing to do with whether it's a worthwhile program; it's simply due to our not having the funds," he said. "If we had the funds, I'd do it with the stroke of a pen - I'm a huge fan of Bert Nash. But that's not the world we live in."

Kuszmaul said WRAP's services, by keeping young people out of trouble, save both the city and county hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

"It's like replacing your leaky roof," he said. "You don't have to, but if you don't, you'll just end up spending a lot more down the road."

Looking at options

School board member Sue Morgan said before the board acted on WRAP, it was likely to review the roles of guidance counselors, prevention specialists and nurses employed by the district.

"Right now, a lot of things are sort of pieced together because of the way the grant was structured," Morgan said. "But now that the grant is going away, there may be some things we can do to be more efficient. We'll need to review our options."

For the past four years, WRAP has received most of its funding through a Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant, a blend of federal aid from the departments of education, justice, and health and human services.

Administered by the school district, the $9 million grant also has funded:

¢ In-school prevention programs aimed at curbing drug, alcohol and tobacco use.

¢ Success By Six.

¢ Bigs in Schools, a project of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Douglas County.

"We have several grants that expire this year - not just the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant," said Becki Carl Stutz, affiliate director for Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

To offset the loss, she said, the program needs to raise an additional $180,000.

"We're looking at other fund-raising opportunities," Carl Stutz said.

The loss's effect on Success By Six and the district's prevention programs is not yet known.


laughingatallofu 12 years, 2 months ago

I'm pretty certain that our current legislators wouldn't possibly even consider funding such a program, because that would take tax breaks away from their campaign contributors. B@stards.

Penny wise, pound foolish.

norm 12 years, 2 months ago

"....Bert Nash CEO Dave Johnson, plan(s) to ask the Lawrence school board to set aside $350,000 for WRAP."

How much money does this sage make per year as the CEO? How contemptuous: A "CEO" for a friggin' mental health outfit. Maybe I'm wrong and he's only paid with a fancy title. I rather suspect not, however.

Maybe if all these administrators would take voluntary pay reductions magic could happen.

Until then, defund the program.

Anyone notice not a single statistic was provided in this newspaper plea for money such as how many different kids were "served" by this "program" over the it's funding life time?; Not the repeats or the returns or the ones who are going just because they've got no place to go. I strongly suspect the program isn't as important as it wants to believe.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 2 months ago

I say fully fund the program. It would be irresponsible to not be pro-active in this matter. If the instructors are realizing a benefit it is well worth the money. Controlling a child's anger is important to all of us. Remember Columbine...

tolawdjk 12 years, 2 months ago

Norm, you can have a CEO of a lemonade stand.

I know I know, CEO "mean" 6 figure job in your grinch of a soul. And all "administrators" are the root of evil.

My guess is that the salary these administrators recieve already makes them qualify as "volunteers". No one gets into the career of grant funded mental health because its "lucrative".

mom_of_three 12 years, 2 months ago

WRAP is a very essential program to anyone who has a child in the Lawrence Public School system. I would hate to lose it.
Norm, don't judge a program you don't use or understand.

badger 12 years, 2 months ago

Since the tech boom, 'CEO' can just mean 'whichever of the founders of the company owned a tie at the time.' You see business cards all the time that say, "CEO, CFO, CIO, CTO" (Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Technical Officer) after one person's name. I have a friend who's been the CTO of four companies in the last ten years and the CEO of two, and he's never made more than 40k.

Sorry, norm, but getting bent out of shape that a program the size of Bert Nash has a CEO? That's a ridiculous reason to oppose funding a program.

I think the program is a good idea, and hope they find some funding. I wonder if it's legal for them to accept private donations or not. Sometimes there are funny laws around schools and health and taking money. Of course, there's a lot of grant funding out there for Early Childhood programming, and I bet there's quite a bit for mental health programming, too.

mom_of_three 12 years, 2 months ago


last year, wrap assisted 2602 students. don't know how the number is accumulated - i.e. if 2602 different students received services, or if they counted multiple times for one student.

I hope the school keeps it.

Confrontation 12 years, 2 months ago

I really hope this program gets funded. I have a friend who did an internship with the WRAP program, and the stories she told were amazing. There are a lot of things that students will tell counselors instead of their parents. I bet most of us could think of a time in high school when it would have been very helpful to speak with someone other than a teacher or parent. Too bad the feds won't cut the budgets of wasteful programs like NASA, and put those funds towards our future.

YourItalianPrincess 12 years, 2 months ago

I have heard good and not to good things about the WRAP program in our schools. A few parents say they get a bit noisy into your home life and what goes on there. A few parents have said fantastic things about the program.

I haven't had a chance to sit down with a WRAP worker myself and see what they truely offer our kids. My youngest hasn't had to go to the WRAP program at his school so far. I do believe they ask ahead of time if you want your child to see a WRAP worker for issues.

Don't out schools have counselors anymore? If the schools have counselors there then why do they have the WRAP counselors there too?

badger 12 years, 2 months ago

I don't know, YIP, about what specific situations WRAP has been 'noisy into your home life' for parents. Perhaps they are overstepping and interfering with good parenting. I do know that I had a number of friends in high school who could have used someone to talk to and someone to intervene at home even if they were stepping on parental toes.

My best friend's mom would tell her just about daily from preschool on, "I wish I'd never had you or given you away, but even the state didn't want a lazy worthless brat like you. If abortion had been legal one year earlier, I wouldn't have to listen to you." I imagine that if someone had tried to get her and her daughter into family counseling, she'd have said you were butting into her life and personal choices about child-raising.

Between the ages of 14 and 21, my friend tried to kill herself multiple times, spent weeks at a time in a drug-induced haze, and slept with dozens of men, occasionally without even asking names. There wasn't a lot I could do except talk to her about rehab and try to get her self-esteem up so she'd think she was worth counseling. She stopped talking to me about the time we were 19, and I lost all touch with her two years later.

Guidance counselors at my high school were mostly about career and college choices. They'd cut the funding, so there wasn't even a nurse on duty full-time. There was literally no adult, aside from a teacher she trusted, that she could talk to about it - and school rules about teacher-student relationships meant that he was pretty limited in the amount of time outside of class that he was allowed to spend mentoring her.

I had other friends, who were thinking about suicide or getting physically, emotionally, and sexually abused at home, who got into drugs and alcohol, who fell into abusive relationships, who starved themselves or threw up four times a day, who really could have used something other than the rest of the group all saying, "Hey, we love you and we're here for you and we want to help you," but that's pretty much all we had to offer. Generally, what happened would be that the safety net of friends would fail, and there would be a suicide attempt, or an overdose, or a parent injuring the child, and the kid would spend 3 weeks in a Charter facility for 'difficult teens' (till the insurance ran out) and then be right back at home, nothing changed, nothing different.

We'd have welcomed anything that offered the option of talking to someone about a bulemic friend, or thoughts of suicide, or an abusive parent before the crisis hit - because once the crisis hit, it was usually too late for anything but a free trip to the best group ward Mommy or Daddy's insurance could buy.

Devon Kissinger 12 years, 2 months ago

I personally hope they are able to fund this program. I know of one teacher and one student whose lives were saved by literally by this program. The WRAP program works, even if it only saves one kid it's worth funding.

norm 12 years, 2 months ago

Defund it and all other "programs" that persist in the war on boys.

"Sommers gives us the background for the feminization of boys starting in 1990 when Carol Gilligan announced to the world that America's adolescent girls were in a crisis. She subjects Gilligan's research on girls and boys to extensive analysis and finds it less than scientific and effectively dispenses with the myth of the "Fragile Girl." Mary Pipher calls American society a "girl-poisoning" and "girl-destroying culture." Pipher informs her readers in Reviving Ophelia that her clinic is filled with girls "who have tried to kill themselves." Sommers recites the CDC suicide statistics and it's really the boys who are committing suicide, increasing at three times the rate of girls. In a population of nine million 10- to 14-year-old girls, an absolute increase of 13 is not evidence of a "girl-destroying culture." The AAUW spent $100,000 on a study of "How Schools Shortchange Girls " and then $150,000 promoting it to an uncritical and enthusiastic media. Susan Chira's report of this for The New York Times was headlined "Bias Against Girls Is Found Rife in Schools, with Lasting Damage." When the author called on Ms Chira and asked her if she had obtained any critical evaluation of her thesis, Ms Chira stated, after a long silence, "I don't want to talk about this." When asked why she had not sought out critics, she said, "I see where this is going. . . . . I wish you the best of luck. Goodbye," taking the journalistic equivalent of the Fifth Amendment. When she called back later, Sommers asked if she would write it the same way today. She responded that she would not have, since we now have learned so much about boys' deficits."

THE WAR AGAINST BOYS - How Misguided Feminism is Harming our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers, Simon & Schuster, New York, © 2000, ISBN: 0-684-84956-9, 251 pp

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