Project Launch assists parents, school districts

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Child wellness can impact the future. In fact, Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Parenting can be extremely difficult at times and child wellness has always been about more than just parenting. Therefore, Project Launch (PL) is a program that dedicates itself to aiding parents, schools, doctors and anyone else who could potentially impact a child’s life.

PL is a five-year grant program. The program is provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration to a single county within Arkansas. Mississippi County was selected for the program in 2014.

“Basically it’s a program that is supposed to coordinate services that service children ages 0 to 8. This happens by coordinating agencies and really helping link everybody that impacts the life of a child from age 0 to 8, so that means the schools, the doctors, the parents, DHS, the health departments, the whole community we want to wrap around the families…we’re wanting to create a different environment and you can’t create a different environment by changing the environment of the home but not changing the schools,” PL Coordinator Cordie Gardner said.

PL tackles these environmental changes in a number of different ways. They offer parenting classes through the Mississippi County Coalition for Hope. A big focus at these courses is mental health. They work with primary care physicians and mental health care facilities to help link those two things together.

“Often times people look at it like two different houses, but in reality they are going to have to coordinate to better serve families,” Gardner said.

Gardner stated that Project Launch is considered prevention, so while they can’t do things like get a household’s lights turned back on, they can create better environments so that lights don’t get cut off to begin with.

The whole team around Project Launch is from Mississippi County. They also have a parent advisory board that consists of local parents. The programs goal is to teach families how to better themselves and help as many families as possible before the grant ends.

“We just want to empower and teach families how to advocate for themselves because this grant will be over in two years but hopefully we can put people in place that can keep these things going to train parents up in the way that when we are gone they still know how to go to their school board. They still understand the importance of being resilient and bouncing back from trauma and understanding that life is life,” Gardner said.

Project Launch has also started different work groups within the community to aid in community betterment. The Fatherhood Initiative is a group dedicated to helping men better themselves and their families. The Women’s Workgroup has taken on the project of aiding pregnant teens in the high school. Another project of the Women’s Workgroup is getting women access to doulas for women in the community.

“Doulas are women who really support a women while she is pregnant. They may just be somebody to talk to or they may be the person to give a massage or they be that person, we have women that don’t have anybody at the hospital, they don’t have anyone,” Gardner said.

The Health-Literacy Workgroup dedicated to helping parents with their literacy skills. Gardner said that it can be difficult for some to apply for any kind of service whenever they can barely read the application. The Literacy Workgroup helps to teach parents better literary skills and help them become more educated.

Gardner says that even after the grant is no longer received she believes that these groups will still meet. Recently, Gardner and some of the PL council went to St. Louis, Mo. to observe their program, which had run out a month prior to their visit.

“I wanted them to see what a council looks like that keeps working together and I think that when you build those partnerships they can’t go away because we become more than just somebody we see at a meeting,” Gardner said.

Gardner said that Mississippi County has some great families and the citizens of the county own Project Launch.

“It’s there’s its not ours. It’s not the states. The state rights the notes and pay the check but the local makes the decision,” Gardner said.

gwilliams@blythevillecourier.com\