Governor Kemp recently stated that he would like to make mental health services available in all schools. That is already occurring in several schools in Dade and Chattooga counties. Lookout Mountain Community Services currently participates in the Georgia APEX Program which funds mental health services in schools across the state. Through funding from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, the APEX Program offers schools support for students who are living with mental, emotional, behavioral, and substance use issues. The GA APEX Program provides in-school mental health counselors that serve as a resource for students, as well as, staff. Perhaps the greatest benefit that the program provides is the ability to link students and their families to the mental health services they need in their home communities.
Lisa Stephans, the APEX/Child and Adolescent program manager for Lookout Mountain Community Services, finds that the most rewarding thing about the APEX program is working in the schools rather than the clinic. “It’s different in the schools, the children are more laid back and you can meet them where they are in terms of providing support.” She says another difference is the ability to see the children interact in their own environment with peers and educators. “You are a part of the child’s RTI, 504, and IEP planning, you are truly a team member.”
While there are many success stories, one in particular stands out to Lisa. It was a collaborative effort on the part of LMCS, the school system, and other local stakeholders all working for an individual who was kicked out of their home. The individual was unable to care for themself on the streets. In collaboration with a local judge, the individual was housed at the jail (not ideal, but off the streets) for five days. A team meeting was held and items of need and an application for housing was completed with the team’s help. Seated at the table were the LMCS APEX team, the local judge, along with members of Adult Protective Services (individual was 18), the LMCS Care Management Entity representatives, and the school counselors. The judge agreed to furnish an item of need, a TV for the apartment. He followed through and once the individual had stable housing, delivered the new TV. It was a great day for all involved. This is just one of the many success stories that highlight the collaborative efforts of the schools, community partners, and the LMCS APEX program.
Currently LMCS’ APEX program team members are working in Dade and Chattooga County Schools with hopes to expand. If you are interested in bringing the APEX program to your school and you are located in Dade, Chattooga, Catoosa, or Walker County, you can learn more by visiting our website, www.lmcs.org, or you may reach out to Lisa Stephans directly at 706.956.5226 (office) or 423.298.2115 (cell).
Lisa Stephans is the APEX/Child and Adolescent program manager for LMCS. She has an MS in both Psychology and Forensic Psychology. She has been with LMCS for 6 years and holds many certifications including Trauma Certification, DBHDD Suicide Prevention Stakeholder, she sits on the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Protocol for the Multidisciplinary Investigation and Prosecution of Alleged Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse and Sexual Exploitation panel member, Dade First Child Abuse Committee; Dade Strategy Team, she is also QPR Certified, and is working on initiating a Substance Abuse group in collaboration with DJJ in Dade, Walker, Catoosa, and Chattooga Counties. Stephans states that she “Is first and foremost a mom and grandmother. She has five children of her own and four grandchildren”. Stephans states that “Their accomplishments over shadow anything I have done and make me strive for greatness in each child I serve”.