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Seattle's Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic provides mental health care in schools

Seattle's Beacon Hill International School has a mental health professional to help kids understand their emotions.

Schools are full of personalities, some big, some shy and some that are just different.

Educators and counselors channel all those minds into a progression of learning.

But sometimes there are bumps in the process.

Sometimes children have behavioral or emotional needs that aren’t met, and that can lead to interruptions for other students.

“You walk into a classroom, and there are kids that experience trauma, and there are kids that don't have a stable home life and you see that in the classroom it comes out right here in class and it's tough,” explained first-grade teacher Nisha Daniel.

At Beacon Hill International School there is a mental health therapist from Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic

“My job is to help children be successful in school and to try to remove the barriers that are keeping them from being successful. So, social, emotional things, economic things, helping hook them up with resources. But doing whatever I can to help the teachers understand how to best deal with that child and create behavior management plans that are working and not scary to the child,” explained Gina Gutmann the OBCC mental health therapist at Beacon.

Gutmann has an office near the classrooms. It’s a calm space where kids come and play games like “feelings bingo,” where they draw cards that have words like angry, or sad, or excited.

Once that subject has been introduced the kids begin to open about what makes them sad, or angry, or excited.

“You think about all the stress many families are going through, and with that stress, there are incredible attributes within that child within that family. Once you build that trust, once you have that time to really listen, ask the questions that are open-ended and hear their story, because from there the path gets a lot brighter,” said Mark Fadool, the Clinical Director of Mental Health Services at OBCC. 

Fadool is proud of the services offered at the clinic. But it's often difficult to get kids that need extra support to the clinic during regular daily hours.

“So, if we talk about quality care with dignity, it's not very dignified to have wonderful services that families can't access,” said Fadool.

OBCC began its support in high schools, then progressed to junior high and now giving support to elementary schools like Beacon Hill. Clinicians stress that the earlier kids are exposed to mental health awareness the easier it is to erase the stigma that often surrounds illness.

Odessa Brown staff hope to expand the program so more children can benefit from health care for their mind and body.

You can help support the mission of the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic

Watch Growing Wellness: An Odessa Brown Children's Clinic and Seattle Children's Special, Thu, Mar. 7th from 7-8 PM on KING and KONG, sponsored by Seattle Children's. You can make a donation online today.

This story is sponsored by Seattle Children's.

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