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  • Writer's pictureSheanaFirth

Mental Health Association to implement local high school violence prevention and intervention progra

The Mental Health Association of Indian River County (MHA), in partnership with the School District of Indian River County and the Indian River County Hospital District, will implement a program at Sebastian River and Vero Beach high schools to provide LifeSkills Training for enrolled ninth graders, crisis and therapeutic intervention for any high school students displaying behavioral health risk factors, and critical response services for any incident affecting large portions of the student population if a tragic event were to occur. Funding for the $76,000 program is being provided by the Hospital District.

MHA Clinical Director, Jeanne Shepherd M.Ed. LMHC, said, “We are grateful for the opportunity to positively impact the lives of high school students in Indian River County and to promote their safety and wellness through prevention services and the development of needed skills.” Mrs. Shepherd said this program continues MHA’s focus on prevention and early intervention, teaching life and decision making skills for positive choices to high school freshmen and providing help early for students 9 through 12 at risk for behavioral health issues. She praised the Hospital District for providing funding and the Indian River School Board for its receptivity to the program and making available local classrooms and teachers for this effort.

Hospital District Trustee Ann Marie McCrystal, commenting on providing program funding, said this new initiative “addresses a growing problem that has been identified as critical throughout our nation.” Mrs. McCrystal movingly commented prior to the Hospital District’s vote on funding, “It is my belief that if one child’s life can be saved as a result of this mental health program for our ninth graders, then I would expect the taxpayers of our community would share in celebration of that life.”

Executive Director of Student Services and Exceptional Student Education for the School District of Indian River County, Dr. Lillian Torres-Martinez said, “We are grateful to the Hospital District and to the Mental Health Association for this collaborative partnership. Strong partnerships with community based organizations and stakeholders are vital to student success, as these partnerships further contribute to our efforts in creating positive learning environments that are supportive and meet the needs of students through prevention and intervention services.”

The MHA will implement the Botvin LifeSkills Training Program, an evidence-based program proven effective in reducing youth risk to engage in violence. The program has been certified for excellence by the U.S. Department of Education, The American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical 820 37th Place, Vero Beach, FL 32960 MAIN 772.569.9788 FAX 772.569.2088 A United Way Agency • An Affiliate of Mental Health America

Association. Ninth graders attending Vero Beach and Sebastian High Schools will participate in the program. A clinical team member will lead structured teaching modules as part of the academic day.

The Mental Health Association in Indian River County promotes mental wellness for the entire community and provides high quality treatment for those at risk. The MHA Walk-In Care & Counseling Center, located at 820 37th Place, in Vero Beach includes mental wellness classes, free screening, and crises intervention, consultation with family members, referral and follow-up treatment. The MHA Drop-In Peer-Supported Recovery Center provides safe, supportive and confidential peer-operated recovery resources. For more information, call 772-569-9788 or visit us online at

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