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500 Mental-Health Consultants Volunteer for Head Start Program

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WASHINGTON--The American Psychological Association has recruited 500 of its members as volunteers to provide mental-health services to disadvantaged preschoolers enrolled in the Head Start program.

Mental-health consultants now work with Head Start programs in areas where they are available. But the new initiative, which was announced at a Head Start center here last week, will establish a network of psychologists to work with children, parents, and staff members at centers nationwide.

Besides identifying children who need mental-health services and intervening where possible, the psychologists will work with children to help foster their self-esteem and teach them coping and cognitive skills to approach problems constructively.

"It is hard to think of any better preventative agent against social problems than an investment in Head Start,'' Bryant Welch, the A.P.A.'s executive director for professional practice, said in a statement.

The A.P.A. psychologists will also assist in developmental screening and assessments, help link families and centers to community resources, and conduct workshops and support groups for parents, Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan said in announcing the effort.

Don Bolce, the director of government affairs for the National Head Start Association, applauded the initiative. But he noted that it was not sufficient to address the increasing demand for mental-health services among children in the nation's 1,900 Head Start programs and 32,000 Head Start classrooms.--D.C.

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