The shift from in-person to online learning, social distancing guidelines and other unexpected changes from the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in increased pressure on students and increased demand for support services. Mental Health.
To meet growing demand, schools across the state are hiring more than 500 additional psychologists, social workers, counselors and school nurses with the help of funds from the state’s $17.1 billion budget. K-12 statement signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer last year.
It included $240 million for school districts to hire staff to support students dealing with mental and physical health issues caused by the coronavirus.
“The pandemic has reminded us that school-based mental and physical health professionals are not luxuries. Healthy students – physically, mentally and socio-emotionally – are better learners,” Whitmer said in a statement. . “Having trained professionals in school buildings helps our children get the support they need so they can thrive in the classroom and beyond.”
School districts have until March 1 to hire staff to be eligible to apply for grants to fully fund positions with state money.
“I certainly believe that Covid has created a greater demand for mental health services,” said Paul Clark, superintendent of schools in the Cheboygan area.
He said Cheboygan District is partnering with the Thunder Bay Community Health Department.
“They provide both physical health and mental health services. Thunder Bay works with families insurance. All of their counselors are certified counselors,” Clark said.
“As long as Thunder Bay is able to meet our needs, we will continue with their services. Cheboygan will not be seeking state funding for a mental health program at this time,” he added.
Harbor Springs Public Schools has a partnership with the Northwestern Michigan Department of Health to provide mental health services to students.
“I think people are more stressed than ever and I guess that carries over to our student population who are certainly not immune to the stressors around them,” said Michael Behrmann, superintendent of schools. of Harbor Springs. “(We) have two full-time mental health therapists and one part-time therapist. We also have 2.5 school counselors who also work in our schools and a facilitator who supports Native American students.”
Does Harbor Springs intend to apply for public funding to strengthen or establish a mental health support program?
“We’re reviewing that to decide whether or not we’re asking for additional support,” Behrmann said. “I’m very proud of our current mental health support, but we could always use some more help.”
Amy Scott-Kronemeyer is superintendent of the Sault Ste. Marie Area Public Schools and she said the district offers a tiered approach to mental health services.
Level 1 focuses on social-emotional learning which includes the zones of regulation, a cognitive-behavioral approach used to teach how to regulate feelings, energy and sensory needs in order to meet the demands of a situation and to succeed socially.
Tier 2 has culturally appropriate supports that include school behavior specialists, counselors, and Native American counselors. Level 3 includes collaboration with the Sault Health Adolescent Care Center.
Scott-Kronemeyer said the district also has school-based mental health services provided by an Eastern Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District (EUPISD) social worker that includes a care plan and individual or group therapy. group.
She also said that there is an Emergency Student Assistance Team (ESAT), which is a locally developed process that includes a team of EUPISD mental health professionals in districts who have a concern at level of students linked to an imminent risk. It is a non-disciplinary process designed to gather information and determine the need for a full risk assessment.
“All ESATs also include a safety and supervision plan designed to mitigate school and home safety issues,” Scott-Kronemeyer said.
Scott-Kronemeyer said the district will seek state funding.
“We are always working to improve and improve the programs we have. We have a good system because of our commitment to working with community partners,” she added.
For Gaylord Community Schools, Superintendent Brian Pearson said: “Our counseling and social work department creates ways to meet the needs of students outside of the traditional school setting as well as address the added stress and burden on students who were featured during the pandemic.”
Gaylord Schools has 12 counsellors/social workers on site.
“Seven of the 12 are district employees, the other five are provided through partnerships with the Northwest Michigan Health Department and the Alcona Health Department,” Pearson said.
Pearson said Gaylord does not plan to seek public funds.
“Our challenge is to keep the positions that we have fully filled,” he said.
At schools in the Johannesburg Lewiston area, Superintendent Katy Xenakis-Makowski said the district will seek state funding.
“We hope to expand on our current model and add additional supports,” Xenakis-Makowski said. “I believe there is a need for mental health support in all of our schools and communities.”
Xenakis-Makowski said schools in the Johannesburg Lewiston area have multiple levels of mental health support.
“We have trauma and relationship training with our ESD (Cheboygan-Otsego-Presque Isle Education Service District) for all of our staff, including bus drivers and cafeteria classifications in addition to teachers and administrators. We We also have a partnership with NEMCSA (Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency) to provide Academic Success Workers who help with all types of social misbehavior Finally, we have a partnership with Thunder Bay Community Health Service to provide on-site medical and behavioral supports,” she said.