IPAC, local schools stand up for young child wellness

From left to right, Rep. Debbie Phillips, Lauren Riley, Tyler Sayre, Rep. Ted Celeste, Jonathon Roback, Margaret Hulbert, Justin Barnhart, and Gayle Channing-Tenenbaum pose at Trimble Elementary.

In an effort to shape the legislative agenda related to children in southeastern Ohio, IPAC President Dr. Jane Hamel-Lambert and Board Member Sherry Shamblin coordinated an advocacy event with the Ohio Children’s Caucus, a recently formed bipartisan committee aimed at helping the state’s 2.7 million children.

“We wanted to make Ohio’s Children’s Caucus aware of the needs of kids, particularly preschoolers, in our region,” Dr. Hamel-Lambert said. “We want to help influence their legislative agenda with the hopes that these interests get protected.”

Two of the caucus’ founding members, Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and Rep. Ted Celeste (D-Grandview Heights), were invited to share in a discussion with IPAC, Tri County Mental Health Center, and with professionals of Trimble Local and Federal Hocking schools. Invitations were extended to Athens County’s Rep. Debbie Phillips (D) and Sen. Troy Balderson (R); along with Gayle Channing-Tenenbaum, Director of Policy and Government Affairs of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio; and Margaret Hulbert, from United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

“We articulated the importance of a quality preschool experience for young children in our region, particularly those growing up in poverty,” said Shamblin, also the Director of Early Childhood Programs with Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling, Inc.

Jamie Linscott, who is the ECMH Consultant at both Trimble and Coolville Elementary schools, highlighted her successful work with several children and families through the ECMH program. Mary Mitchell, Principal at Coolville Elementary, discussed the importance of partnerships between schools and community agencies to meet the many complex needs of families.

“This community's ability to work among all of the systems to design programs to support children and their families is quite remarkable,” said Channing-Tenenbaum.

The event included a school tour and a meeting with a group of exceptional 8th graders, several of whom graduated from Trimble’s preschool program.

“I feel so strongly about the continuation of [the ECMHC] program in our preschool, as well as the availability of universal preschool for all students,” said Debbie Koons, Principal of Trimble Elementary School, who was also in attendance. “The meeting we had gave us an opportunity to share our concerns with people who are able to carry our concerns to the statehouse.”

IPAC, a rural health network of 19 community agencies in Athens, Hocking, Meigs and Vinton counties and several Ohio University departments and clinics, will continue its advocacy efforts for the benefit of young children and their families.

The advocacy event was made possible through the Building Capacity - Raising Resiliency grant, a three-year $375,000 Rural Health Outreach grant from the Office of Rural Health Policy. The grant was awarded to Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, under the direction of Dr. Hamel-Lambert, in 2009.