District's Mental Health Service Strategy Serves 'The Whole Child'

Mental Health picA Burrell School District program that focuses on the social, behavioral, and emotional needs of students goes beyond the basics to provide support.

The district's mental health strategy is anchored by the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), managed by a team of educators and counselors who provide courses, programs, and services that address the emotional, behavioral, and social needs of students.

"We look at the whole child," said Dr. Gregory Egnor, who, as Director of Student Services, oversees the district's Mental Health Service Strategy. 

The goal of the district's mental health approach "is to work to strengthen social, emotional, and behavioral support at all tiers to best support our students," said Hannah Sarvey, the district social worker who serves on the team. 

The three-tier system is a pyramid model, with the first and largest tier supporting all students from kindergarten to 12th grade. This core program includes broad services, such as the Choose Love Social Emotional Learning curriculum. The first tier provides the support necessary to help about 80% of the students thrive, Egnor said.

Two other tiers help the remaining 20% with more specialized programs and counseling. Tier two offers more strategic intervention for students, such as a program aimed at helping overcome anxiety and stress in the classroom.

Tier three, the most intensive support, serves about 5% of students who need more specialized services, such as one-on-one support. This can include the creation of a behavioral plan for a student with the help of a behavioral specialist.

The district team also helps students and families connect with community programs that can provide services and support they may need. "We look at students individually who get referred to our team," Egnor said.

The team navigates challenges that arise when trying to serve the many needs of students and families.

"One significant challenge is the extensive waiting list for more intensive mental health services outside of the school setting," Sarvey said. "Several local partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs have a significant wait time that results in a delay in our students accessing the appropriate level of care."

Sarvey said another challenge is providing needed services to a student who is struggling with attendance. "It is difficult for the school to provide social, emotional, or behavioral support in school when a student is not in attendance."

“The mental health strategy has proven effective for the district and its students, thanks to the help of our district’s social worker (Sarvey) and a team that includes a behavioral specialist, school psychologist, and counselors contracted to work in the system,” Egnor said. "It's the best part of my job."

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