Youth Day connects kids with counseling services

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COLUMBIA - Mid-Missouri families gathered in the Boone County Courthouse Plaza Saturday to learn more about youth programs in Boone County. 

Representatives from more than a dozen agencies highlighted counseling, mentoring and substance abuse awareness services in the area. 

The Missouri Department of Mental Health reports that 13.9 percent of youth in grades 6 through 12 said they had drank alcohol before; however, the same survey reported that 60.5 percent of youth said they have friends who drink alcohol.

Navigate is a local program that provides counseling and group services to kids abusing alcohol. Representatives from the group met with students and families at Saturday's event.

"Navigate provides individual counseling twice a week and group education classes all day, every day," Adolescent counselor Virginia Intelisano said. 

Intelisano has worked with Navigate for two years and said while she sees some kids coming back for more counseling, most usually don't need further help. 

"I haven't seen a lot of kids come back to our door," Intelisano said. "That makes me feel like they're doing well in the community." 

She said she hopes Navigate will get more recognition in the community and that people will realize they have this program available to them. 

"I think this event today will help others gain awareness about what we offer and that there is help out there for kids," Intelisano said. "Even with early prevention." 

The event comes a little more than a week before the start of Columbia Public Schools' academic year.