For 25 years, the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center’s school-based mental health program, WRAP, has played a vital role in the wellbeing of Douglas County students.
Like many programs, staffing levels fluctuated over the years, depending on funding. Most recently, the Center was facing reductions in its current WRAP staffing level in order to adjust to rising staffing costs and reductions in financial support.
However, a long-term solution has been found for sustainable funding to continue the program at its current level and to expand services that are provided to students.
“The County will continue its tremendous investment in the WRAP program,” Bert Nash Center CEO Patrick Schmitz announced. “And earlier this week, Lawrence Public Schools has agreed to partner with Bert Nash Center to embrace the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) model. This model will allow us to bring more resources to our community to support the WRAP program. As a result of these changes and agreements, no positions will be eliminated in the WRAP program.”
Dr. Anthony Lewis, Lawrence superintendent of schools, added, “Lawrence Public Schools benefit greatly from strong community partnerships, including our long-standing relationship with Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. Bert Nash’s WRAP specialists complement the support our school mental health and student services teams provide students and link school families to the community resources they need.”
The Bert Nash Center is in the process of becoming a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. In April 2021, Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill establishing a new CCBHC model for providing behavioral health services in Kansas. The signing made Kansas the first state to pass legislation adopting the CCBHC model. Eventually, it is expected that all 26 community mental health centers in the state, such as the Bert Nash Center, will make the transition to the CCBHC model.
‘Perhaps the ultimate benchmark of WRAP are the lives that are changed … and saved.’
“This change is bigger than the WRAP program alone in that it pertains to a much wider array of mental health services to our youth within the school setting, including behavioral health supports and case management.,” Schmitz said. “In fact, we anticipate that in the coming years, we will be able to expand the resources deployed to the schools throughout Douglas County.”
WRAP (Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities) has been a groundbreaking program where the Bert Nash Center — in partnership with Lawrence Public Schools and other Douglas County schools — assigns a master’s-level clinician to a school to work collaboratively with the school’s mental health professionals to help with the behavioral, emotional, and psychological challenges students can experience.
The beauty of WRAP is the program goes where students are — in the schools — to provide an additional layer of emotional and psychological support. Since its start in 1997, the mission of the program has been to assist students to be as effective as they can be at school. Students can be referred to a WRAP specialist by a parent, teacher, administrator, therapist, or they can self-refer. The WRAP program is available to all students.
Currently, there are two WRAP specialists at Free State and Lawrence high schools, one at each of the four Lawrence middle schools, and three elementary positions that each cover two schools each, so six elementary schools. Those elementary schools are Woodlawn and Pinckney, New York and Sunflower, Prairie Park and Cordley. In addition, there is a WRAP specialist at Bishop Seabury, who also covers the Juvenile Detention Center.
Outside of Lawrence, there is a WRAP specialist at Baldwin High School and one at Baldwin Junior High. In Eudora, there is a WRAP specialist at the middle school and two at the elementary school; one which is funded by the Eudora School District. In Perry-Lecompton, there is a WRAP specialist who serves the high school, the middle school, and elementary school as needed. Eudora and Perry-Lecompton school districts are working on ways to expand their direct financial support of the WRAP program, Schmitz said.
As WRAP is celebrating its 25th anniversary, the announcement that funding has been secured to continue the program and expand services in the schools will ensure that students will have access to much-needed mental health services.
“Even prior to the pandemic, we were seeing children’s mental health becoming more fragile. With the pandemic, we are seeing an increasing number of kids who are needing services,” Schmitz said. “I am grateful that we all worked together to find a way to fund this critical, life-saving program. Over the past 25 years, WRAP has touched the lives of thousands of students. As Charlie Kuszmaul, retired Bert Nash Center therapist who started WRAP, once said, ‘Perhaps the ultimate benchmark of WRAP are the lives that are changed … and saved.’”