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New Program Will Serve Students With Mental And Behavioral Health Needs

Mallory Falk
The New Orleans Therapeutic Day Program is a collaboration between the RSD and OPSB. Superintendents Patrick Dobard and Henderson Lewis Jr. cut the ribbon together.

School is back in session. And there's a new option for students with severe mental and behavioral health needs: the New Orleans Therapeutic Day Program. The program recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony.

In some ways, it was a standard ceremony. A shiny gold ribbon. Oversize scissors. Enthusiastic speeches. But the Therapeutic Day Program is not a standard school. It's meant to serve students with high levels of trauma.

Liz Marcell is the program's Executive Director. "Despite intervention, smaller classroom sizes, more intensive counseling services, there were kids who were just not responding. Whose needs were more severe than a school could typically be expected to meet," she says.

The program is a collaboration between the Recovery School District, Orleans Parish School Board and Tulane Medical School. It's housed on the campus of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.

The program will serve 20 students at a time, from kindergarten through 8th grade. They'll spend part of the day in traditional classes and part of the day in what Marcell calls therapeutic environment — everything from yoga and mindfulness to family therapy sessions. The students will also receive medical support.

"We're building skills so that students can be successful in less restrictive school settings," Marcell says. "And the notion is that the children will transition back to their home schools over time."

Students will spend about six months in the program, before returning to their original schools. Marcell is currently taking referrals and expects the first group of students to start in late September.

Support for education reporting on WWNO comes from Baptist Community Ministries and Entergy Corporation.

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