We Became More Than a School:
The Irene M. Hunt School’s Rapid Response Team
Inspiration is often born of necessity. When the shelter in place order began last spring, teachers and staff at Irene M. Hunt School noticed a drastic increase in the mental health needs of students. “We were dealing with a lot of crises,” says Bryanne Guthrie, the school’s lead clinician, “increased hospitalizations, a sharp increase in parents making more CPS calls and having to have law enforcement involved, and a general level of overwhelm was felt by all our students.” 

The Hunt School staff sprang into action, creating a "Rapid Response Team" – a preventive system in which students who are not yet in crisis but are showing risk are identified, then a focused plan of intervention and support is quickly put into action. Guthrie says, “We wanted to better serve our students and their families during this time of crisis, using our core strengths of being proactive and being a multidisciplinary team.” 

According to Ken Taylor, campus supervisor and behavior specialist, “We became more than a school. We reached out with gift cards to increase engagement, dropped off food, and checked in frequently on students and their parents. I am so proud of our program. We didn’t skip a beat! Families were in crisis and we responded – because that’s what we do.”  
Teacher Erica Clay agrees, “The increase and responsive attention has helped students relax, knowing we’ve got their backs. We are living our agency name, walking side by side with them through their challenges.”  

One student was struggling with feelings of isolation and some conflict in the home. A plan was rapidly established for him to safely come onto campus and have in-person check-ins. The simple act of leaving the house and connecting with trusted staff that he felt seen and heard by was a huge relief to him and helped decrease the conflict in the home. 
Often, it’s the parents and other caregivers who need support. “Parents in general have more anxiety right now,” explains Taylor. “Trying to be a teacher and a therapist and a behaviorist for their student, in addition to being a parent, is incredibly challenging. We give them validation and then give them some tools to help them.”  

Guthrie admits that at the beginning of the pandemic, many members of the clinical and behavioral staff had moments of doubt, wondering how they could possibly do their jobs over a computer. Would just showing up be enough, they wondered?  

“But staff didn’t just show up,” says Guthrie. “They kept showing up in a meaningful way. We have witnessed so many successes – stories of students being resilient and overcoming challenges thanks to the Rapid Response Team and the support of their clinicians. It has proven to me once again that ‘just showing up’ in a meaningful way truly is enough. And it’s making a world of difference.” 
As the combined challenges of this year continue to ripple through our communities and into our holiday season, we hope to have your additional support.

Shop for your friends and family at Boon Supply and 40% of your purchases will be donated directly to Side by Side.

Or, support our Holiday Wishes program that helps ensure that every Side by Side client has a present to open this year.