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New Johnson County, KS mental health program aims to help children, families

Posted at 7:02 PM, May 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-06 20:25:59-04

OLATHE, Kan. — A new mental health program offered in Johnson County aims to help families with histories of issues like mental illness or domestic violence by offering special one-on-one parental coaching.

The Johnson County Mental Health Center began offering the Attachment & Biobehavorial Catch-up program in February.

Families with histories of issues like mental illness or domestic violence, who have children six to 24-months-old, can participate.

By offering one-on-one, hour-long sessions once a week at a family’s home, the center believes the program could greatly help children later on in life.

“What this program is doing is teaching the parent how to make their child feel more safe and secure,” Division Director Janie Yannacito, said. “It just builds that sense of security, sense of attachment, sense of knowing I can count on my world.”

Yannacito told 41 Action News that without a safe home or adults to rely on children can possibly experience a number of issues in later years, including turning to crime or substance abuse.

“We want to do whatever we can do as early we can do it to stop that,” she said. “This gives us a chance to intervene even before anything has happened.”

Studies posted to the ABC program’s website show children who experienced the sessions displayed less anger compared to children who did not.

Other research claimed that foster children whose parents went through the program had higher vocabulary scores compared to children whose parents did not.

Jenn Reilly, who experienced postpartum depression and grew up in a family with a history of mental illness, is one of the parents in Johnson County taking part in the program.

After only a few sessions, she told 41 Action News that she has already seen a difference when spending time with her 1-year-old daughter.

“It gives me the initiative to actually do a little more with her and play a little bit more,” Reilly said. “We’re smiling more. We’re all laughing a little bit more.”

Moving forward, she said the program offered hope for her family.

“It seems like things are a little more on the up and up and that’s a relief,” she said. “Mental health is so new. It really needs to be learned at this age.”

Families interested in possibly being a part of the free 10-week program can contact the Johnson County Mental Health Center at (913) 826-4200.