Mental Health Mondays: Social Worker Helps Teen’s Behavioral Health

Photo: Maria Webb

By India Ogazi

It started with a panic attack on his school bus.

“He was breathing rapidly and shaking,” says Mrs. Villanueva of her teenage son.

Legacy psychiatrist Dr. Pedro Bustamante began treating the teen for anxiety, which existed before Hurricane Harvey, but worsened after the storm hit.

“He began avoiding social interactions and couldn’t leave his home — not even for school,” said Bustamante. Villanueva was having her son do his school work at home, but Bustamante quickly recognized that the school needed to provide teaching services in the home for the teen to stay on course. He referred Villanueva to Legacy’s social work team to help.

“This is where we come in,” says Licensed Clinical Social Worker Maria Webb. “We treat the needs that exist outside of the doctor’s visit.”

Webb is a member of Legacy’s team of more than 30 social workers who connect patients with resources, such as food, transportation, GED classes or school advocacy, among other needs. “A person can’t concentrate on their physical and mental health if they can’t pay their bills, or need help in school,” says Webb.

The school district’s process for approving teaching services in the home can be complicated and Villanueva is Spanish-speaking. Webb, who is bilingual, understands the school’s policies and procedures and began advocating on Villanueva’s behalf. “It took a while to get it approved, but we didn’t give up,” says Webb. After months of multiple phone calls, letters and reports, from Webb and Bustamante, the school district finally approved the request.

“I’m very thankful for Maria’s help,” says a joyful Villanueva. “Since he began having the teacher come into the home, he is improving and feeling better. He’s doing good.”