Mental health awareness and access to care is a top priority at Indian Prairie School District 204, and Endeavor Health is proud to support its efforts with our Community Investment Fund.

“One thing that we are really committed to is wanting our children to recognize the importance of their mental health,” said Dawn Forkner, social emotional learning and wellness coordinator for Indian Prairie school District 204.

“We want to make sure our kids feel safe in their classrooms, safe in their community and safe in their homes and that starts with them understanding when they need to ask for help, and parents knowing how to respond,” Forkner said.

The district developed the Indian Prairie CARES program after a return to in-person instruction in the wake of the COVID-19 and the realization that there was an unmet need for mental health services because of the pandemic.

The Community Investment Fund helps support CARES, which provides free after-school counseling, assists with mental health education for students and families, and connects families with care quickly.

“This started out as a small project that we had, the CARES clinic, this idea that we had to bring care close to home and to reduce waiting lists and transportation, childcare, all these barriers that parents face,” Forkner said. “What we have found is this school year, our numbers have exploded. We helped probably close to 150 families access care close to home.”

Since the program started, the district has been able to provide more than 2,000 free after-school counseling sessions at four school clinic sites, practitioners’ offices and through telehealth.

The district has also been invited to present at local and national conferences about the CARES model, sharing their solution to increase access to mental health services.