School Based Services
Michelle: “[We’re headed to] Austin, Texas, to the National Center for School Mental Health conference. It’s an organization sponsored by the University of Maryland. They really focus on school mental health services and schools partnering with community mental health centers to provide services in schools. So, we’re really excited about that.”
Jessica: “The title is ‘Invisible Backpacks: How Trauma Impacts Learning.’ And the reason that is very important is because we don’t always know what our students walk in with. In addition to just regular student concerns like finals or prom or college, there’s additional concerns. Maybe it’s ‘Am I going to eat today?’ or ‘Am I going to come home and my parents are home today?’ And we wouldn’t see those.”
Michelle: “I love the story that Jessica tells about when her three-year-old, Halie, actually saw the image of the little boy carrying the backpack to school. Can you tell that story?
Jessica: “Yeah. So, she saw the image and she goes, ‘Wow! It really looks like he’s carrying something really heavy, and he’s sweating, and the school’s really far away. It looks like it’s going to be really hard for him to get to school today.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s exactly the whole point. Exactly.’ “
Michelle: “I think one of the important things is recognizing that it truly is a partnership. So, having a CMHC within your building does not eliminate any services. It really adds to the available services that are at the school, which is why the tier system is so important. So, we worked with Avon schools in particular to really develop how our services fit and line up with that tier. I’ll let Jessica talk a little bit about the tier system.”
Jessica: “So, the bottom tier is Tier One, which is school counselors. They handle the majority of the students in the building. And then Tier Two is something that’s kind of special to Avon, which is social workers. And then the Tier Three system is Cummins, which is the most intensive services. So, what’s fantastic is the student can go up the tier system, but then they can go back down. So, they can still have services after they complete services with us. They don’t have nothing, they still have those eyes on them and still have that support.”
Michelle: “In Hendricks County, we’re co-located in close to 30 schools now, which is amazing, throughout Avon, Brownsburg and Danville, all secondary and elementary schools. And so, we provide on-site behavioral health services for students and their families right there at the school. We’re also on-site to provide any emergency, high-risk assessments that any child might need, and also consultations to staff and administrators. “Being co-located in the school, I think, helps to try and eliminate some of the stigma, because we’re really ingrained into the school community so we’re seen just as another partner, another entity of the school, really. So, a child being seen with one of our providers is just like seeing a staff member at the school. At the same time, you know, with administrators and school personnel, it’s also helpful for them to continue to understand how important services are to decrease that stigma, so that we can be that voice in the room that says, ‘You know, I think that Johnny isn’t a hot mess, I think Johnny really does have some behavioral concerns that stem from all of these generational things that have happened to him in his life.” And so, really to help them reframe and start a different conversation about how they are viewing the children in their system.