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Reaching out to very young

It may be shocking to some to know that in Ohio, preschoolers and kindergarteners are expelled at a higher rate than high schoolers.

In fact, the 2012-13 academic year, nearly 4,000 out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for fighting and disruptive behaviors were reported for the state’s kindergarteners.

A new initiative aimed at getting those young, at-risk children the mental health and wellness services they need was recently funded by the state and hopes to intervene before expulsion occurs.

Officials set aside $9.1 million for the initiative in the state’s two-year budget, which will benefit 75 counties, according to the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. The funds allow for up to 64 mental health consultants who will work with teachers and at-risk students in programs such as Head Start, preschool and child care settings.

Addressing children’s behavior early on is critical to give them the best chance of success, as their brains are still developing and they are still learning their emotions.

Having mental health consultants available to look for disruptive behavior, which can be associated with childhood trauma, abuse and neglect, should go a long way in get these underserved children and families the help they need while there is still time to make positive changes.