Agencies serving Philly public school kids with special needs expect challenges

    For Philadelphia public school students with behavioral health issues such as depression or ADHD, the first days of school might bring some anxiety and challenges. Ten of the 24 schools that were closed down had in-house therapy programs for kids, who now will receive services in their new schools.

    Roxy Woloszyn from the advocacy organization Public Citizens for Children and Youth says kids will continue to receive the services despite budget cuts and school closings, but therapists are expecting some difficulties.

    “There is always that normal, beginning-of-school-year confusion, even without that whole bunch of children who have gone to new schools,” she said. “The providers are pretty well prepared to deal with that, and to adapt quickly, to insure that children get the support that they need. “

    Some children arriving at new schools will have different provider agencies for their services; others will have the same agencies and, perhaps, the same therapists.

    “We anticipate that the children as well as the staff are just going to have a heightened state of anxiety,” said Dr. Jeanne Lehrer with Northeast Treatment Centers, one of the agencies contracted by the city to provide in-school services for kids.

    While the services are covered by a different funding stream and will stay the same, Lehrer said general school budget cuts still affect their work.

    “Knowing that the counselors support would be reduced as well as some of the other adjunct staff,” she explained, “we work in conjunction with that staff in supporting those kids we knew that we would have less support.”

    Lehrer says, going forward, therapists will have to rely on teachers to help track children’s progress and well-being. The challenges in providing services for kids coming into new schools should be worked out within a few days, she said.

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