Partnerships with community and educational service organizations and mental health experts will expand mental health support staff and suicide prevention resources available through RSD schools
The new resources are largely paid for by hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and donations. They are currently expected to bring as many as six student support staff and establish a suicide prevention training for parents through the district’s high schools.
“All of this is just the beginning of our work,” says Angie Withers, one of the district’s school psychologists and co-lead of MHAT. “We know that there is a lot of need in our schools and our community for these supports.”
The district established MHAT in 2020 with school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, school nurses and administrators as part of a concerted effort to address student mental health and well-being in schools. The team’s role is assess overall student mental health needs, bring community partners into schools and ensure school staff have the tools they need to support students.
The following new resources began rolling out in December 2021 and will continue to be added through early 2022:
- Student assistance professionals (SAPs), who will be paid for partly by the ESD and by the district, at Carmichael and Leona Libby middle schools. They will provide support for behavioral health and substance abuse upon referral by school counselors and administrators as well as support awareness campaigns in working students.
- Catholic Charities Serving Central Washington and Lutheran Community Services Northwest (LCSNW) will provide up to three mental health professionals and a case manager for the district’s high schools. District administrators are currently working with both organizations to hire those staff.
- Dr. Jennifer Stuber of the University of Washington (UW) School Mental Health Assessment Research and Training (SMART) Center will begin training in February 2022 an initial group of parents in the Asking Is Caring program, a community-based and parent-led suicide prevention program. That will support broader training opportunities for all interested parents in the spring of 2022.
This is in addition to enhanced staffing and other school-based supports the district moved forward with earlier in the school year. School social workers joined the staffs at Chief Joseph and Enterprise middle schools in the fall of 2021 and certificated staff went through training on student mental health through the SMART Center. A behavioral, emotional, social and academic screener, first given to students in the spring of 2021 and scheduled to be administered twice a year, is helping to identify students need of additional support. This information will also inform school-wide programming such as Positive Behavior & Intervention Supports (PBIS) and social-emotional learning.
“The progress that is being made is a testament to how committed our school and district staff as well as the whole community is to providing supportive schools for students,” says Assistant Superintendent Todd Baddley.