MONROE - Northeast Delta Human Services Authority (NEDHSA) and the Madison Parish School District have entered an agreement to facilitate the provision of programs that will offer solutions and strategies to children that will help them overcome early life problems associated with individual, family, and community trauma. Beginning in August, NEDHSA will implement the Al's Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices and Signs of Suicide programs.
Al's Pals: Kids Making Healthy Choices is an early childhood curriculum designed to increase social and emotional competencies in young children. The resiliency-based curriculum provides real-life situations that introduce children to health-promoting concepts and build prosocial skills, such as understanding feelings, accepting differences, caring about others, using self-control, and managing anger.
Signs of Suicide is a suicide prevention program that will educate all sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students in the Madison Parish School District about the relationship between suicide and depression.
NEDHSA Executive Director Dr. Monteic A. Sizer said this is part of a set of child and adult initiatives that will "ultimately improve individuals, families, institutions, and communities."
"We're creating ecosystems to help reduce the early onset of mental illness, drug addiction, violence, suicide, teen pregnancy, school expulsion, to name a few." Sizer said. "We are doing this because we know these things are highly correlated with adult poverty, homelessness, high unemployment, and early death."
Madison Parish School District Superintendent Dr. C.E. Butler Jr. said that as part of the district's mission and vision, "the programs NEDHSA offers are in alignment with our expectations for our young scholars."
"We believe in the whole child and developing the intangibles," Butler said. "Character development, leadership, and community involvement, in naming a few, are essential intangibles to have alongside the knowledge and skills acquired at schools. We all know that being an outstanding employee and member of society means more than just knowing the x's and o's of academics."
Butler added that having platforms and programs such as these to groom "our young scholars” will “help to advance our scholars to meet the demands of a global world."
"These components will set our scholars apart from the rest and give us that needed advantage to excel today and after graduation," he said.
This agreement starts with the provision of Al's Pals and Signs of Suicide, but NEDHSA and the Madison Parish School District plan to include additional programs. They plan to implement a Life Skills program that aims to prevent alcohol, tobacco use, and violence by targeting major social and psychological factors that promote the initiation of substance use and other risky behaviors.
Another important program, NEDHSA officials said, is the "Kids Don't Gamble, Wanna Bet?" program that is an interdisciplinary program designed for youth in third to eighth grades to discourage underage gambling through improved critical thinking and problem-solving. They also will bring a "Positive Action" program that is an integrated and comprehensive program designed to improve academic achievement and a "Toward No Tobacco" program that is a classroom-based curriculum aimed at preventing and reducing tobacco use, primarily among grades six through eighth.
Additionally, NEDHSA will implement a "Student Ambassador" program to help to enhance strong leadership skills, positive attitude, strong work ethic, and a commitment to their high school. Ambassadors will work with current students, faculty and staff, community members, and business leaders and be the voices behind school-lead projects and community involvement.
Sizer said if these programs aren't in place, "those negative social determinants and adverse health outcomes will continue to follow the children into adulthood."
"Programs like this can help reduce youth truancy, increase grade performance, and ultimately graduation rates," Sizer added. "And even more so, create more productive citizens who have been transformed by our work."