With the stigma related to mental health dissipating, parents and educators are seeking ways to help children and students holistically — by addressing the child’s social, emotional and behavioral development.
The Hopkins County School District has partnered with Mountain Comprehensive Care Center for the last three years to provide students with the mental health care they need, said Assistant Superintendent Marty Cline.
“We currently have a memorandum of understanding with Mountain Comprehensive Care Center,” he said. “That partnership involves Mountain Comp providing counselors in each of our buildings for the benefit of our students for mental health services.”
The district isn’t just educating students academically, Cline said.
“If a child has some emotional or social or mental health issues, it’s often almost impossible at times to even reach a student academically,” he said. “When they have other issues that are the primary focus in their lives, it becomes very difficult. We look at the whole child and try to educate the whole child. And mental health is one of those factors.”
The schools have mental health units built into their health curriculum to help students understand issues surrounding mental health, said Cline.
It is challenging for a student to learn algebra, or comprehend the election process or try to write an essay if students have deeper-rooted issues, he said.
“In order for a student to be educated academically, we would expect them to be healthy — both physically and mentally,” Cline said. “We have school nurses in our buildings for their physical health benefit, and we’re blessed to have counselors in the buildings to help support their mental health.”
Mountain Comprehensive Care Center Chief Operating Officer Ken Stein said each school is equipped with a counselor to serve the families and students of the district, and to provide care to over 500 clients in the schools.
“We’ve been doing school-based services for a number of years in different parts of the state,” he said.
Through conversations with administrators and guidance counselors, Stein said, they have seen fewer students go to the guidance office for behavior issues.
“We see less kids having to go through the guidance counselor’s office for behavior problems, and more kids staying in school and not being suspended or taken out of school,” he said.
The group provides school-based services because they are an effective way to reach students where they are, said Stein.
“It’s effective because parents don’t have to take off work, they don’t have to pull their kid out of school, take them to a clinic and then take them back to school,” he said. “This is done in the school, with the kids’ schedules, they don’t miss any school, parents don’t miss any work, so it’s a very effective way to get kids treatment.”
The confidentiality of students is one of the districts and MCCC’s highest priorities, said Cline.
“Their time with Mountain Comprehensive is confidential, just like their time would be with an administrator or their time would be with a school counselor,” he said.
The treatment given by MCCC to Hopkins County students costs the student and their family nothing, said Stein.
“The student doesn’t pay, the families don’t pay, there’s no copay, there’s no billing,” he said. “We see kids, and we bill Medicaid or their insurance company for the services. All we ask from the school district is that we have an office, a desk and a phone. That’s the only real expense the district has.”
Students are treated for a myriad of mental health issues at the schools — from ADHD to bipolar disorder, Stein said.
“We deal with everything,” he said. “Virtually any mental health issue you can think of, at one time or another.”
Stein said one way for families to be proactive in their children’s mental health is to watch for changes in behavior.
“Changes in behavior, defiance,” he said. “If they’ve suddenly gone from being happy-go-lucky to seemingly depressed, then probably something is going on, and if there are any changes in their attitude towards school — those are all things counselors look for.”
Cline said students can seek out help through any teacher, administrator or employee of the school. All of which, he said, know how to take the next step in getting the student connected to a professional in the field.
“They can go to any of our adults, whether it’s a teacher, custodian, a cafeteria staff manager, it could be a bus driver,” he said. “It doesn’t always have to be Mountain Comp person, it could be an administrator or school counselor, but anybody, if they need help, can reach out to any adult in the building. As long as they’re willing to come forward, we’re going to have somebody there willing to help.”
In order for students to reach their fullest potential, Cline said, they will take care of the whole child.
“Our children aren’t worried about learning if they’re sick with the flu. Our children aren’t worried about learning if they have a migraine headache, so the same can be said for their mental health issues,” he said. “If we’re not helping to provide some service for those students, they’re not going to be able to progress academically. We want to take care of the entire student so that they can achieve their greatest potential.”
Students that need MCCC’s help are referred, said Stein.
“Typically, a referral will be made from the teacher to the guidance counselor, and the guidance counselor then refers the children to us,” he said. “We have a formal process we go through before my counselors will call the families and let them know.”
Stein said if parents noticed changes in behavior at home, they can initiate the conversation with MCCC through the schools in two steps.
“One is to notify their student’s guidance counselor or school. Or, they can call Mountain Comp’s outpatient clinic on Ayr Parkway at 270-825-0414,” he said. “Some parents prefer their kids to be seen in a clinic as opposed to school, which is perfectly fine. We have therapists at the clinic in Madisonville that parents can bring their kids to.”