Synergy’s Services Target Childhood Trauma and Stress in Excelsior Springs Students

SAFE Meeting with Synergy presentation
Synergy gave a presentation on their services to the youth of Excelsior Springs at the September SAFE Meeting at the Excelsior Springs Hospital. Photo: Jason Cole

Founded in 1970 as the only shelter for runaway and homeless youth in western Missouri, Synergy’s School-Based Integrated Services (SBIS) has come a long way. Initially called Synergy House, the program now encompasses a range of services including a crisis hotline, emergency shelters, transitional housing, and mental health services. With 255 employees on board, Synergy is making a substantial impact on communities throughout greater Kansas City.

A Holistic Approach to Education and Mental Health

In an Excelsior Springs SAFE (Substance Abuse Free Environments) meeting this week, key personnel from the organization provided insights into their work. Taylor Freburg, District Manager of the “High Seas” Synergy Services School-Based Program, Logan Arcano, MSW-Assistant Program Manager of Resiliency and BSI Services, and Rachel Gabriel, MSW, LCSW, LSCSW, Clinical Coordinator, spoke on the multiple dimensions of the program.

Synergy aims to address a plethora of issues affecting children today. Their goals include resolving crises through hotlines and street outreach, providing safety via emergency shelters, promoting healing through clinical, mental health, and counseling services, building strength through empowerment and training, and effecting change by focusing on adverse childhood experiences (ACES).

The Urgency of Addressing Childhood Trauma

“Childhood trauma is among the most pressing issues facing society and our education system today,” said Taylor Freburg. Children who experience trauma often lack the emotional and psychological foundation for academic success, and high rates of stress and anxiety further impede their learning. 

By collaborating directly with local schools, Synergy aims to breakdown barriers that prevent children from accessing the care they need. Their multifaceted approach involves:

– Trauma-sensitive classroom strategies
– Prevention and early intervention services
– Individual behavior support plans
– On-site therapy 
– Professional development focusing on trauma-informed care

Impact and Statistics

In the Excelsior Springs School District, the program has deployed a full-time resiliency specialist, a full-time therapist, and a full-time BSI, alongside part-time therapy provided by Rachel Gabriel.

SBIS program statistics were shared:

  • 2019 totals – 4,684 total students were served, 4,439 students receiving prevention services, 245 individual therapy clients. For Excelsior Springs specifically: Resiliency for 4 elementary classrooms, 7 small groups, and 162 total students. Therapy (Family) services for 4 clients totaling 6 hours. Individual Therapy for 18 clients at 128.75 hours. Group Therapy for 5 clients at 3.75 hours and Case Management for 5 clients at 50.5 hours.

  • 2020 totals – 6,250 total students served, 5,906 students receiving prevention services, 345 individual therapy clients. For Excelsior Springs: Resiliency in 25 elementary classrooms, 2 small groups, 2 individual service students, and 456 total students. Family Therapy provided to 6 clients at 4.5 hours. Individual Therapy was offered to 59 clients at 457.25 hours.

  • 2021 totals – 14,032 total students served, 13,578 students receiving prevention services, 454 total individual therapy and BSI clients. Excelsior Springs figures: Resiliency for 55 elementary classrooms (973 students), 7 small groups (25 students), 21 individual service students. Family Therapy for 15 clients at 20.75 hours. Individual Therapy for 47 students at 465 hours. Behavior Support was given 3 cases assigned and 1 closed.
  • 2022 totals – 936 students in elementary classrooms, 31 students in small groups, 18 individual service students. Family Therapy for 3 clients at 1.75 hours. Individual Therapy for 44 clients at 165 hours. Behavior Support services were assigned 7 cases and 5 are now closed.

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite their impact, challenges remain. The organization is grappling with questions about what full capacity looks like for the school-based program and how to increase the utilization of prevention services. Another concern is to understand the level of training in trauma-informed care that new teachers have received.

How to Get Involved

For those who wish to support this vital initiative, Synergy is open to donations of money and holiday gifts. Volunteering opportunities are also available. Additionally, the program currently has 35 job openings, including three in the school-based program.

By targeting childhood trauma and taking a holistic approach to mental health, Synergy’s School-Based Integrated Services is making strides to create a healthier, happier future for children in Excelsior Springs.

For more information, please visit Synergy’s website.

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