Mental health offered to students

Some South-Western City School students can take advantage of free mental health care.

Harvey Nesser, coordinator of human services for the district, told the board of education at a Sept. 22 special meeting that the School Connections program is good to go.

The School Connections program is administered by Directions For Youth and funded by a grant through the ADAMH Board. The program allows social workers to work part-time at three middle schools and two high schools. The schools include Finland, Norton and Pleasant View middle schools and Westland and Franklin Heights high schools.

"The program is offered in under served areas," said Nesser.

Nesser explained that the program aims to improve attendance and student achievement. It also helps to reduce student disciplinary issues.

The social workers spend about eight to 12 hours a week in the designated schools and see students on a referral basis, provided parental permission is granted.

"It’s so frustrating to refer a parent out," said Nesser. "That could take up to eight weeks to get the student to see a professional.

Nesser said under the School Connections program, a students could talk to a social worker within a week.

Last year was the pilot program. Nesser said it was successful, so the district decided to continue it for the 2008/09 school year. Last year, a total of 310 student referrals were made, though the district only received permission to counsel 180 students. Nesser said about 108 cases were completed and 98 cases were considered successful. Other cases are ongoing and the social workers do follow up on the students.

Nesser said he would like to see the program extended to the elementary level for preventative care. He would also like to see social workers at the other district schools.

"We want the program at our other schools, but the funding is not there now," said Nesser.

Last year the students and families received over 3,900 hours of mental health services worth more than $320,000 at no charge to the families or the district. District officials said the services may not have been accessible without the program.

"The parents don’t pay and it’s virtually no cost to the district," said Nesser. "It’s a win-win situation."

District leaders plan to review the mental health program at the end of this school year.

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