It’s that time again, back to school. It seems the whole county is striving to prepare both
Teachers and students for the upcoming year. In addition to pencils and paper, professionals are
also focused on the mental health of the citizens of Kentucky.
This past Wednesday, August 3rd, River Valley Behavioural Health in Lewisport hosted
the 2nd annual “Back to School Bash.” A free event for the community with many attractions for
kids and parents alike. m.facebook.com/pg/
In addition to the petting zoo, free haircuts for kids, raffles, and door prizes, there were
stuffed backpacks and plenty of food. There was something for everyone.
Dr. Wanda Figueroa Peralta, President, and CEO of Rivervalley and Affiliates was there
to oversee the activities. Dr. Peralto points out the need for mental health availability for all who
may seek it. These days, school-age children are exposed to many different stimuli and may
have issues being able to process all that is thrown at them. Peralta says there are 3 goals for
this event: “one goal is for the kids to have an opportunity to have fun and make memories with
parents, another goal is letting kids and parents know they are not alone if they are struggling,
and removing the stigma of mental health.” Her clear message is that “there is hope.”
RVBH has resources for both children and adults. They cover seven counties in Kentucky; Daviess, Hancock, Henderson, Union, Mclain, Ohio, and Webster. The board is made up of representatives from these counties. Peralta says” we want to make sure we are addressing the needs of each community.” Staff is trained to handle emergency counseling in affected areas and have certification from the Red Cross.
The Lewisport facility was purchased last year by RVBH. Prior to that, it was a clinic so renovations were limited. Peralta felt the need to provide access to more services. “Providing access to services is twofold, prevention, and treatment.” She stresses the importance of local
access so that transportation to receive help is less of an issue. She talked at length with local leaders to tailor the program and facility to meet their particular needs.
When asked about the demographic of the Lewisport facility, Peralta says “ it covers the entire lifespan, from children to adults.” She is a big proponent of pairing with schools and starting early in life. Her primary focus is on the young, to destigmatize mental health issues.
Dr. Peralto hails from Chicago and has worked in the behavioral health field for over 20 years there. She is a former teacher and school councelor. She has 3 degrees and a doctorate in education and behavioral health. Her credentials speak for themselves.
The connection between mental health and academics is becoming more obvious. Peralto dismisses the idea that children should be evaluated on academics alone. Their mental health may be affecting their overall performance in school. If you can get to the root of the
mental health issue, better academic performance is sure to follow. The issues do not discriminate and cross economic borders. “There was not that much of an emphasis in schools to integrate academics and emotional learning.” “A child who is strong and supported can do
better.” This produces leaders and confident young children and adults.
“Children today are over-stimulated” Peralto asserts. They need to be taught how to manage the overload or their confidence will suffer. Children need champions in the adults that surround them. If that doesn’t come from home, they at least can be mentored from the rest of
the community. Teachers are on the front lines and most of the support will come from them.
Educating the educators is crucial.
Dr. Peralto does not work from the Lewisport office but puts every confidence in the staff that is in place. We both agreed that educating the very young about their options in the face a mental health crises, will possibly avert a larger crisis in the making. These conversations must now begin with the youngest children so that when they grow, life as they know it may not be so scary.