Summit Pointe equips students, families, and teachers for a mentally healthy back-to-school

Anxiety, disliking school, having trouble focusing — these are just a few of the concerns that Laura Cosby, Summit Pointe wellness clinician for Union City Schools, and Angela Deal, Summit Pointe director of youth services, hear from children and their parents or guardians as a new school year begins.

Cosby works with a variety of children, many of whom do not enjoy school. She tells the story of one student who did not want to attend school — they strongly expressed “hating school,” had high absenteeism, struggled with separation from their parent, and had challenges with classroom behavior. Cosby began doing therapy on-site at school with the student.  
“I quickly became their ‘favorite class,’” she says. “Over the course of the year with therapy and working with the youth and a parent, we were able to provide an appropriate diagnosis that contributed to their challenges. This student learned emotional regulation through calming skills and strategies to reduce stress and anger and increase positive thinking. Eventually, they no longer wanted or needed to leave class to see me because success in classes and staying with supportive friends became their desired goals.”
The student greatly improved attendance, received no more behavior referrals, improved their grades, and improved relationships in and outside of school. Cosby shares that many kids are less than thrilled when the time to go back to school rolls around.
Laura Cosby, Summit Pointe wellness clinician for Union City Schools.“Anxious feelings tend to be prevalent,” Cosby says. “Oftentimes there’s anxiety around just getting into a routine and transitioning from summer, where there may not have been as much structure. Or there were growth changes, so there’s fear of acceptance and the unknown. Once kids establish routine and normalcy, those anxious feelings can be diminished.”
The community mental health agency serving all ages in Battle Creek and Calhoun County, Summit Pointe provides a wide scope of quality services for youth and families ranging from therapy-based programs for the individual child to non-therapeutic programs that engage the whole family. Back-to-school is a busy time for Summit Pointe’s professionals as they work to support youth, their families, and teachers in the community.
“Parents often express concerns about academics as kids move up in school — and about their child’s behavior,” says Angela Deal, Summit Pointe director of youth services. “They will worry about their child’s anxiety, and whether it will turn into something that will affect their performance and behavior in and out of school.”
Summit Pointe provides wellness clinicians, like Cosby, to schools within their county that request extra mental health resources for their students and staff. This position started almost ten years ago when staff at Summit Pointe noticed a need and want for increased access to mental health support for students.
“We were noticing that the youth we worked with were having trouble keeping their treatment consistent, and it really impacted their care,” Deal says. “We felt that creating a wellness clinician position would allow easier access to a mental health clinician for students.”
Summit Pointe employs three masters-level wellness clinicians to rotate among ten schools. They provide students and school staff with resources, support, therapy, and referrals to other mental health professionals.
“The great thing about being at the school is that teachers are aware of our services,” says Cosby. “We can help kids diminish distraction and focus and function well, not just for that student, but for the class as a whole.”

Teachers can help identify any concerns among students, such as behavior, isolation, or behaviors that are not typical and refer them to the school’s wellness clinician for resources and support.
Angela Deal, Summit Pointe director of youth services.“We provide assessments to see if there are mental health support needs for a child. And we can then help provide that child with support to fit their needs,” Deal says. “Every school has a different level of support and services, and we want to direct kids and parents to the best services and resources for them. The wellness clinician can often be a middleman and can provide a great mental health assessment and introduce children and their families to more intense mental health services. These wellness clinicians can stand by families to really help with a smooth, warm hand-off to other support individuals.”
Summit Pointe also focuses on teachers and staff, as a high level of overwhelm and burnout has become apparent post-COVID.
“We can provide de-escalation training around a topic, provide staff with resources, provide therapy —we’re flexible with what we’re able to provide,” Deal says. “More districts are concerned about teachers’ mental health, and we’re starting to partner with teachers to provide ‘Lunch and Learns’ for support.”
Summit Pointe’s 24/7 First Step Psychiatric Urgent Care Center. Deal and Cosby’s fundamental tips and tricks for students, families, and staff as they return to school include:
·        Being kind and patient during the transition.
·        Establishing a routine of drinking enough water, eating well, getting outside to exercise, and prioritizing sleep.
·        Finding and creating support systems for kids.
·        Removing electronics at night to rest kids’ minds
Deal also suggests “riding the wave during the first few weeks back” and avoiding making big decisions during the transition back to school.
Summit Pointe also hosts a great online resource, the Credible Minds website and app, which is free to use and provides short videos on topics that are relevant to the community’s needs and wants in terms of support. Anyone with a concern is welcome to stop by or call Summit Pointe to ask for help. And Summit Pointe First Step Psychiatric Urgent Care Center offers crisis care 24/7.

Kelsey Sanders is a wellness professional and freelance writer and editor. She has lived in West Michigan her whole life and loves learning and writing about the many great things her area continues to do. When she’s not working, she’s staying home with her baby girl and enjoying the Lakeshore with her husband.

Summit Pointe facility photo by John Grap.
Children photos by RDNE Stock Project and Norma Mortenson via
Other photos courtesy Sumit Pointe.

The MI Mental Health series highlights the opportunities that Michigan's children, teens, and adults of all ages have to find the mental health help they need, when and where they need it. It is made possible with funding from the Community Mental Health Association of MichiganCenter for Health and Research TransformationGenesee Health SystemMental Health Foundation of West MichiganNorth Country CMHNorthern Lakes CMH AuthorityOnPointSanilac County CMHSt. Clair County CMHSummit Pointe, and Washtenaw County CMH.

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