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JCS is ‘ahead of the game’

School district works with health department on ways to help students who experience trauma, neglect, abuse

In Jessamine County, one in four students reportedly experience adverse childhood experiences such as neglect, abuse and household dysfunction.
Luckily, Jessamine County Schools are on a mission to help with one committee asking for a new type of therapy – the JCS Care Cart.
“Starting three years ago, Jessamine County Schools began participating in trauma informed care training with school employees throughout Kentucky offered through the Project AWARE grant,” Amber Bruner, nationally certified school psychologist for JCS said. “The goal of the grant is to create Trauma Informed Care Schools throughout the state of Kentucky. The leadership in Jessamine County Schools supports this initiative whole heartedly and Jessamine County was ahead of the game.”
The grant, Bruner said, operates with the Kentucky Department of Education and the University of Kentucky Trauma Center for children.
“Through a grant, Jessamine County Schools developed a comprehensive support system two years ago to address the needs of students who have experiences some form of trauma in their lives,” JCS Supt. Matt Moore said. “The Care Cart will serve as another tool to address our students’ emotional needs, offering sensory and calming resources.”
With this initiative, JCS employees have received trauma awareness training for all school resource officers, administrators, bus drivers, food service workers, teachers, assistants and secretaries.
“The county is committed to ensuring new employees in the district acquire this training as well,” Bruner said.
With household trauma, neglect and abuse impacting brain development, children who experience these issues have difficulty regulating their emotions or feeling safe, Bruner said. One way JCS is attempting to help local students is by providing ways for students to calm and regulate themselves when being faced with hard issues.
“We know that children will operate from the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ center of their brain versus having pathways to the thinking part of our brain which allows us to stop and think prior to making choices,” Bruner said. “Our goal in asking the ASAP committee for items for ‘care carts’ is to provide a calm down space in classrooms and schools where students can access tools like bubbles, theraputty, breathing exercises, fidgets and provide mindfulness activities to help their bodies calm.”
Bruner said the committee’s goal is to make these carts available in all schools.
“Jessamine County ASAP is delighted to partner with Jessamine County Schools on the development of the Care Cart in an attempt to assist students through a trauma informed care approach,” Jessamine County Health Department Director Randy Gooch said.
“It is our hope that items found on the Care Cart, will distract students from ruminating over stressful events that they may have witnessed or experienced.  We are thankful our schools are working diligently to address ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) and developing a response to assist students who have been impacted by traumatic events.”
Depending on funding, the first school which would benefit first from the new JCS Care Cart would be the Jessamine Early Learning Village and elementary classrooms before moving the program through the middle and high schools in the county, after funding is approved.
“The use of a calm down space and sensory tools to regulate are highly effective and a recommended practice in trauma informed care schools,” Bruner said. “Several classrooms have started to implement calm down spaces in their classrooms; however, the goal is for every student to access these tools and materials.”
Bruner believes there is an opportunity for the entire county to benefit.
“Fortunately, we have amazing occupational therapists, school counselors, FRYSC, school psychologists, and behavior coaches who are educated and able to support the use of these tools to help our students learn to regulate their bodies and minds,” Bruner said.