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Funds will be expended over two years to provide training for mentors for program

PMG PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - St. Helens Superintendent Scot Stockwell, center, speaks with the St. Helens School District board on Sept. 25 about the Connect St. Helens Program. The district was recently selected to receive $200,000 in grant funding from the state to support the Connect St. Helens Program, which was launched this year. The St. Helens School District was selected to receive a nearly $200,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Education's Youth Development Council to further develop a program designed to engage community members through caring relationships.

The school district will receive the grant over a two-year period during the 2019-21 biennium with funds being used to provide training for a network of stakeholders and key community members to help run the program, called Connect St. Helens.

The school district is establishing Connect St. Helens to help provide young adults with a way to connect with the community, combat suicide and substance abuse.

A similar program was developed in Battle Ground, Washington, after a rash of crises from teen suicides to drug and alcohol abuse and violence affected the community,

which prompted it to action in 2013.

The Washington program, called Connect Battle Ground, followed the uniting of community members to create a specialized network of people who are trained to be part of a "Caring Adult Network."

The CANs help young people feel connected and give them a sense of belonging in the community, offer ways to become engaged in the community, and provide encouragement regarding education.

Connect Battle Gound served as an inspirational model for St. Helens after the school district was rocked by several student deaths in recent years. In December, the executive director for the Connect Battle Ground program, Curtis Miller, visited the St. Helens City Council alongside St. Helens Superintendent Scot Stockwell to talk about the program.

"This is going be a game changer for our community," Stockwell said.

Earlier this year, the school district launched Connect St. Helens through a promotional social media and a newsletter campaign. The district promoted the use of a six-petaled green flower with a gear in the center, representing the six sectors of the community that united to establish the network of people involved.

Stockwell said the funding will help the district to pay for a contract with Miller who will help further facilitate mentor recruiting and training for key stakeholders to be involved.

The Connect St. Helens program will bring together people from the city of St. Helens, Columbia Health Services, the Columbia County Suicide Prevention Task Force, faith organizations and other community members to create a network of trained adults who can engage with local youth.

Stockwell said he was glad to receive support from the state to pursue the project, which he described as "exciting work."

"The CHS (Connect St. Helens) project will use training, mentorship, community engagement, and evaluation to promote the mental/emotional/behavioral health of individuals, families, and organizations throughout St. Helens. Utilizing a model firmly rooted in neuroscience, Trauma-Informed Care (TIC), and resilience science, CSH seeks to collaboratively unite and support diverse participants in crafting a shared community narrative," the St. Helens grant application states.


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