U.Va.'s Curry School To Dedicate Sheila C. Johnson Center for Human Services on Oct. 25

UPDATE: Sheila Johnson will not attend Monday's dedication of the center she established at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education. Her mother, Marie Crump, will attend and give remarks. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan and Curry School Dean Bob Pianta are also scheduled to speak at the event.

October 20, 2010 — More than 15 years ago, when Mary Beth Bellah and her family fostered and later adopted a 9-year-old boy, she found that she had made a fortunate choice of career and employer. Because of their new son's learning disabilities and complex emotional traumas, they needed access to an array of consultants and services. Fortunately, Bellah had managed the Center for Clinical Psychology Services, housed within the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, for 11 years.

"It was only because I worked there and knew the faculty that I was aware of the multiple services offered through Curry training clinics, all of which were operated separately and housed in different locations," Bellah said. "If I hadn't been in this job, it would have taken more time and a lot more stress to figure out what he needed and how to get help for him."

Bellah's son benefitted not only from the Center for Clinical Psychology, but from the Speech-Language-Hearing Center, the McGuffey Reading Center and the Personal and Career Development Center – all resources under the Curry School umbrella.

Now, navigating these clinical services is no longer a matter of luck, said Bellah, who is back at Curry as clinical administrator for the new Sheila C. Johnson Center for Human Services. Families can access comprehensive services for all age groups at a single location.

A dedication ceremony for the center, free and open to the public, will be held on Oct. 25 at 11 a.m.

Businesswoman Sheila C. Johnson, a member of U.Va.'s Board of Visitors, gave $5 million to the Curry School to establish the center, and has said she was inspired by her love of children and her desire to see all children succeed in school.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan and Curry School Dean Robert Pianta will speak at the event.

The Sheila C. Johnson Center, located on the ground floor of the new Bavaro Hall at 417 Emmet St. South, provides a shared administration, reception and waiting area along with multi-use treatment and observation rooms. It incorporates the expertise of both licensed professionals and graduate students in the Curry School's clinical preparation programs.

Its most innovative feature, Pianta said, is the ability to integrate services across clinics. "The center represents a multidisciplinary approach to assessing and treating children who are struggling in school," he said. 

The center's clinics will be able to combine their expertise to develop a single, cross-disciplinary treatment plan that addresses the whole child, he said. A child with difficulty reading, for example, may need an evaluation to determine the likelihood of a contributing attention deficit disorder, emotional disorder or language disability.

"This revolutionary approach is sometimes found in health care, but is rarely available to address the educational needs of children," Pianta said.

A reception will follow the dedication, which is open to the public.

Media are also welcome. Parking is available in the Central Grounds garage.

— By Lynn Bell