HOLGATE — Keary Sarabia, CEO of RFS Charitable Foundation, gave a presentation to the Holgate Local Board of Education Wednesday evening to introduce a behavioral health initiative that will be implemented at Holgate Local Schools by his organization beginning with the 2016-17 school year.
RFS Charitable Foundation is an Ohio 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is a state and nationally accredited behavior health agency that serves more than 1,200 students in five counties in Ohio.The foundation is headquartered in Toledo, with a satellite office in Defiance.
Sarabia introduced the program T.A.C.K.L.E., which stands for Teach, Aspire, Critical, Knowledge, Learning and Empowerment. The program's mission is to empower youth through education, and to break the stigma of traditional behavioral health, by providing treatment that engages students.
"What we do is help children with behavioral health issues, by providing a case manager and a therapist in the school to help those students who are referred for our services," said Sarabia. "We've identified a lack of behavioral health programs in rural areas, and it's our mission to bridge that gap by being that resource in schools."
Sarabia explained that students are referred for behavioral health services by guidance counselors in the school, in conjunction with the teachers who point out issues to the guidance counselor. Services that T.A.C.K.L.E. provides include: bio-psycho social assessments, CPST case management, AoD case management, individual or group therapy, AoD services, family stabilization, and linkage with medication and psychiatric evaluations.
"What we've seen from the school districts we are in, that the percentage of the students we serve in most schools is about seven percent of the population," said Sarabia. "Our statistics have shown that our services have helped to increase attendance and academic performance, and decrease suspensions and adverse behaviors. We specifically correlate what goes on outside the school, affects kids in school. Whatever the issue is, those kids are bringing those issues to school.
"After meeting with the principals here (at Holgate), we talked about issues that affect students here and we discussed how we plan to handle those issues if/when a student is referred for our services," continued Sarabia. "We will work with teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators so that we can help students succeed. One of the biggest services we provide is getting parents involved by going to their homes, and making sure they come to school to be part of the solution."
Sarabia explained that there is no cost to the student's family or to the school district, services are paid through private insurance and RFS Charitable Foundation bills the insurance company directly. In addition, no youth is turned away, regardless of insurance. The T.A.C.K.L.E. program is also available year-round, including summer and when the school is on breaks. Therapists can also see students if they are suspended, not attending school, in detention or in the hospital. There is also support after hours if needed.
Holgate school board president Greg Thomas asked Holgate Elementary principal Laura Young and Holgate Middle School/High School principal Casey Hemmelgarn their thoughts on the program. Young replied: "After meeting with Keary, the teachers and the principals are very comfortable and confident this program will be a big help for our students that use these services. It's a positive that someone will be here in the school to provide these types of services."
Said Sarabia: "This is a big deal, and it's our mission to be the resource in a school for any youth that needs our help. When we provide services at a school, we become part of that school and community. We're here to fill the gaps other services can't provide, and most of all, to help students succeed."
Thomas thanked Sarabia following his presentation and concluded by saying: "Welcome."