School-based Mental Health Program at Desert Springs Elementary Off to a Promising Start

Self-regulation classroom initiative guided by Lee Pesky Learning Center engages 3rd through 5th grade students to improve school performance and provide strategies for students experiencing toxic stress

School-based Mental Health Program at Desert Springs Elementary Off to a Promising Start
BOISE, Idaho–Cambia Health Foundation has granted Lee Pesky Learning Center (LPLC) $113,380 over two years to fund school-based mental health counseling services, case management, technology tools, clinical assessments and teacher training. This program will support the needs of more than 300 3rd-5th grade students at Desert Springs Elementary in Caldwell, a school that serves a high number of children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.  
The program has two major components: Preventive service for all students and more intensive group and individual counseling for students experiencing toxic stress. LPLC staff provides professional development to teachers, including strategies they can practice daily with their students. Throughout the program, LPLC will monitor individual student progress, collect and analyze program data, and provide ongoing mentoring for teachers in classrooms.
Toxic stress is a response that can occur in children who experience strong, frequent or prolonged adversity without adequate adult support, including physical and emotional abuse, chronic neglect, exposure to violence, and accumulated burdens of family economic hardship (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University). This level of poor mental health negatively impacts the overall development of children and adolescents and is associated with negative social outcomes such as substance abuse and school dropout.
“Schools can offer stability for children experiencing ongoing toxic stress at home, but if our kids are not offered the right coping strategies, they have a much higher chance of getting caught in the ‘stress-failure-stress-failure’ cycle. This pilot is about prevention, and identifying and effectively supporting students experiencing toxic stress.  Our goal is to reduce the number of children who need more intensive services over time and increase the number of students who are prepared for classroom learning.” said LPLC Executive Director, Dr. Evelyn Johnson.
The response from teachers and students at Desert Springs Elementary has already been tremendous.
“Self-regulation strategies have taken over Desert Springs!  While only our 3-5 grade teachers were trained, teachers in grades 1-5 are using the phrase ‘I notice’ and students have created visual rubrics to illustrate expectations for school procedures.  I am excited for the time when I see students using the strategies on their own either to regulate behaviors or to help themselves relax before something stressful,” said Desert Springs Elementary Principal, Lisa Boyd.
“This investment in Lee Pesky Learning Center’s innovative model aligns with Cambia Health Foundation’s strategic priority of reducing barriers to mental and behavioral health care for our most vulnerable populations,” said Scott Kreiling, Cambia Health Foundation board member. “We’re excited to help fund this thoughtful, collaborative project that introduces school-based therapy and behavioral health-related teacher training to Idaho.”
Kreiling noted that the Foundation has funded similar programs in Oregon and Washington and seen positive results.
About Lee Pesky Learning Center
Lee Pesky Learning Center (LPLC) works together with students, families and schools to understand and overcome obstacles to learning, with offices in Boise, Hailey and Caldwell. Its core program is one-on-one clinical evaluation and intervention services. LPLC provides psycho-educational evaluations, counseling intervention, and academic intervention and coaching to improve the lives of people with learning and attention issues. Results of program evaluations indicate that more than 90 percent of clients show a reduction in their behavioral symptoms as a result of receiving intervention at Lee Pesky Learning Center. In the last four years, LPLC has doubled the number of counseling hours provided to meet the growing demand for these services in the Treasure Valley.  Visit  to learn more.
About Cambia Health Foundation
Based in Portland, Oregon, Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a total health solutions company dedicated to transforming the way people experience health care. Cambia Health Foundation is a 501(c)(3) grant-making organization that strategically invests and partners with organizations regionally and nationally to advance palliative care quality, access and understanding; to improve the mental and behavioral health of underserved children; and to transform health care to a more person-focused, equitable and economically sustainable system. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter.