GRANDVIEW – As lower valley schools begin to re-open with restricted classroom instruction and current health protocols established to aid in maintaining everyone’s safety, this new normal is contributing to an unfamiliar levels of anxiety for students, parents, teachers and staff.

Seeking to strengthen the overall well-being of families in transition from crisis to stability, the United Family Center (UFC) provides convenient access to licensed mental health professionals for youth and adults.

The center’s wellness mission focuses on a family outreach approach while recognizing how their program objective for children and adolescents require a safe and stable home in which to thrive.

“It’s been a work in progress for about a year now,” UFC Operations Manager and Peer Counselor Gloria Guizar described. “We want to be an umbrella for all the services a family would need when it comes to behavioral health.”

UFC’s behavioral health care is a community-based facility staffed with substance use disorder professionals to administer a spectrum of educational and treatment programs, including onsite counseling for youth and adults.

The Youth and Family Office, 106 N. Elm St., offers resources centered upon the principle that children and adolescents flourish when determined parents are supplied with services and support needed to maintain a healthy household.

One of the ways the center plans on giving back to the community will be to offer after school and tutoring opportunities once kids are back in the classroom, Guizar said.

Matched with the center’s operational goal of separating youth and the adults in delivering effective treatments near one another, administrators opened the Adult Services Office, 201 E. Second St., a few months later with an official grand opening in September.

Just as school districts staggered the restart for campus hybrid instruction, UFC is prepared to help families adjust with transitioning back into the classroom.

“We know there’s going to be a big rise in students that will be needing mental health services,” Guizar explained. “They’ve been at home for a really long time and haven’t had any social interaction. It’s always stressful to go back to school, but specifically during this time.”

A couple of signs for parents or guardians to watch for is if their child or teenager is sleeping a lot or not enough and possibly isolating themselves. Then, they may be struggling with mental wellness, Guizar reported.

“It’s been a hard year for everybody. People losing jobs and having kids at home for such a long period of time, especially in homes that we can’t consider safe places. And all of that will start to come out, once these kids are back in school,” she acknowledged.

Crisis and Suicide Prevention Specialist Alexa Jaime is the UFC staff in the Youth and Family Office and will be the person that adolescents, youth, and adults can talk with and rely on.

Jaime’s emphasis is on treating youth and helping families to identify warning signs and risk factors. The specialist said parents get confused about the differences between the two wellness indicators which are used to assess suicidal idealizations.

“It’s an important part of my job to raise awareness on what those warning signs are and the risk factors and as well as ways to prevent a possible suicide from happening,” Jaime conveyed.

Risk factors consist of environmental and biological influences, such as a family history of suicide she said. Warning signs are more about actions.

Those visible warning signs can be observed when someone is being agitated; distancing themselves from loved ones and have stopped participating in activities they once enjoyed, according to Jaime.

“Especially with COVID, there’s been an increase in depression and possible suicide rates will have probably spiked up, so it’s really important now with hybrid learning that parents have these difficult conversations with their children because it’s needed now more than ever,” Jaime explained.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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