Recently, the Alabama State Department of Education passed legislation with increased funding for 102 school districts. This grant funding established the position of a Mental Health Service Coordinator (MHSC) and appropriated $4,530,000 to provide grants to local education agencies (LEAs) to employ a MHSC to support and expand coordination of mental health services throughout their school system.
The goal of Mental Health Coordinator position is to ensure that children and adolescents, both general and special education, enrolled in local school systems have access to high-quality mental health prevention, early intervention, and treatment services. TCS has long been leading the way in providing school-based mental health services to our students. However, we recognize more can be done to support our students’ mental health. We believe that mental health care is as important as physical health care, and recognize our students cannot reach their full potential academically unless they are healthy socially, emotionally, and mentally. Some of the service areas we hope to expand include:
- High-quality services focused on mental wellness that builds on existing school programs, services, and strategies,
- A continuum of care in a school setting; from basic mental health awareness and promotion through intensive intervention
- Authentic parent/family education and engagement in mental health initiatives,
- Meaningful children and youth involvement in mental health awareness and education,
- Culturally and linguistically competent service provision, and
- Data-driven planning, evaluation, and quality improvement.
Additionally, we recognize our faculty and staff need ongoing support to ensure they are emotionally and mentally prepared to foster a healthy learning environment and respond to our students’ emotional needs. EAP services for our employees and PD focused on self-care, burnout, and stress are ways we have traditionally addressed employee mental health needs, but we strive to do more in the areas of mental health prevention, education, and services. We recently started offering the following resources for our employees:
- Weekly virtual Peace of Minds meetings with our EAP provider covering topics focused on mental health prevention and awareness,
- Decompression Sessions for teachers to meet virtually with peers and discuss challenges and solutions to the stress of teaching during a pandemic,
- Educating employees on the use of sick or personal leave days when they need to take off for mental health,
- Wellness check-ins,
- Mental health coaching app and website, and
- Access to a robust collection of mental health information on the TCS webpage.
I am excited to serve our students and employees in the area of mental health coordination. I invite community stakeholders and parents to join the charge in making sure our students’ mental health is a priority. Watch the TCS website as we provide weekly content related to mental health and ways you can get involved!