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District 25 board hears update on therapeutic NWBOCES program

May 14, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Northwest Board of Cooperative Education Services continues to serve Wyoming students with intensive therapeutic treatment and educational and residential programs for severe emotional disturbances, violent behaviors, and family, community and school problems and abuse.

Director Carolyn Conner shared the program's successes April 9 during the Fremont County School District 25 school board meeting. The NWBOCES receives a one-fourth mill from the district for operations and is located in Thermopolis where residential students are housed in cottages.

Students are guided by skilled staff members who also supervise them 24 hours a day.

Conner said these students are those who need more intensive care and are placed in an inviting, bright, open and cheery environment. Some of the residential students have poor social skills, lack in self-control and cooperation, and have mental disorders. They are monitored constantly throughout the program, Conner said, and are guided through medication management and work through educational testing to meet the STAR, PAWS and other required testing.

"We do that in a safe and trusting environment," she said. "We're also making sure we're looking at that academic growth."

The students also are placed in a variety of activities to provide other types of therapies and practice what they learned in different environments. Several of them participate in music, art, pet or equine therapy, recreation, individual counseling, group social skills, and other kinds of treatment.

"We're helping students to build relationships," she said, adding they work with other agencies to reach more opportunities for them.

Students also get to visit the Hot Springs pools, a gym, climbing wall and other activities. The relationship between students and their parents also remains critical, Conner said. Students eventually return home to their families and communities. Students are helped in communicating with their parents to build a better relationship and transition. Parents also are given training and receive newsletters or are contacted by cell phone and are allowed visits.

"The parent training is a huge component," said the district's director of special services Dallas Myers. "Once students leave that residential facility and come home to the same environment, it's very difficult for them to apply what they learned in that environment."

Conner presented the therapeutic outcome data to the board that said ever since operation of the program began in 1998, 86 percent of youth who completed it "successfully integrated in the home community" and have not needed further placement for treatment.

"We're very proud of that therapeutic outcome data," she said. "Your district has always been supportive."

Currently, NWBOCES has 14 students, two of which are from the Riverton school district.

Conner described the NWBOCES staff as patient.

"There's a lot of dedication, not only to the students but to the program," said board member Dean Peranteaux of the staff. He is also a member of the NWBOCES board.

Conner said staff did well in cutting costs last year when their enrollment fell to about 10 students. Conner also was recognized for celebrating a 30-year anniversary with NWBOCES.

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