CINCINNATI — In the wake of mass shootings across the United States and recent violence in Greater Cincinnati, the Children’s Home of Cincinnati aims to be “on the front lines” of mental health services for kids.
In the last four years, the Madisonville-based organization almost doubled its staff, employing 410 licensed counselors, social workers, educators and more placed in over 80 schools across Greater Cincinnati.
And in response to recent violence, the Children’s Home added 30 counselors to its staff this summer.
“It’s been a really tough summer,” said Debbie Gingrich, vice president of behavioral health. “We’ve seen youth involved in homicide, so in those areas, we have a specific call to action saying we know this is going to be a challenge for the students.”
Accordingly, the Children’s Home provides as many as 8 counselors in some schools. The organization already offers counseling help for students in all Cincinnati Public Schools.
“We were getting more calls and more demand for our services and quite frankly we had to say no to many schools until we were able to hire the staff,” said Children's Home of Cincinnati CEO John Banchy.
And that demand is growing. Gingrich, a licensed social worker, said that includes students coming from around Price Hill and downtown due to the record violence there this summer.
“We’re having a lot of calls from schools that kids need not just one hour of counseling a week, they really have students who need daily care. They’re struggling every day,” Gingrich said.
After Sunday’s mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stressed the need for more counselors and mental health resources in schools. Banchy said the Children’s Home aims to tackle that challenge head-on.
“The risk of this happening every day in our community is there and it’s real,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re on the front lines. We’re on the front lines every day.”
The community can help, too. The Children’s Home of Cincinnati’s biggest annual event “Rockin’ at Riverfest” helps fund the group’s efforts. The event is Sept. 1 at Smale Park.
They hope getting more counselors in local schools will help prevent more violence.
“We need to intervene early,” Gingrich said. “We know the earlier we intervene, the better the outcome. And the more likely we are to change the outcome.”