Ballard County Schools gets on-site student mental health services

Have you considered your child’s mental health? The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health says one in 10 children have a mental illness serious enough to impair how they function at home, school and with friends.

Jenna Baker teaches kindergarten at Ballard Elementary School. She says any disruptions by a student affect all students.

“Then the kids are focused on the behavior and not on what I am teaching,” Baker said.

Behavior issues sometimes stem from mental health problems. The Department of Health and Human Services says four out of five children ages 6 to 17 who have mental health problems don’t get any help.

That’s why, in addition to counselors, Director of Pupil Personnel Bob Wilson says they now have licensed therapists on hand at every school.

“There’s so much need. Their case loads are so full,” Wilson said.

He hopes the easy access to therapists will break down mental health stigmas and encourage more students to ask for help.

“Maybe there is something going at home, maybe there is something going on with their social interaction at school,” Wilson said.

The first step to help is filling out a referral form, whether the teacher, parent, or student fills it out. Most of them are being filled out for elementary school students.

Wilson says they’ve been trying to find a program like this for several years. The district applied for grants in the past, but it didn’t work out. That’s why they’re excited for the opportunity to partner with Mountain Comprehensive Care Center.

Therapist Angela Schipp started two weeks ago and says she already has lots of referrals. She says there may be a lot of referrals for elementary school children because sometimes they have trouble talking out emotions and act out instead.

“They don’t know what to do with all that they’re feeling, you know. That’s one of the first things we’ll begin to work on and helping them learn to express their feelings,” Schipp said. 

Once they figure out the problem, she’s able to teach students and teachers skills to cope with it. “You generally begin to see a major difference in not only their behaviors, but just their overall performance,” Schipp said.

The programs started two weeks ago, and Schipp already has a huge response.

“I think it’s going to be a great help not only to us as teachers, but to our district, to our school, and to the families in our community,” Baker said. 

Mountain Comprehensive Care Center is providing the services at no cost to the district. Students must use their insurance. If they don’t have any, MCCC will help the student’s family find coverage.

Referral forms for care are available on the Staff and Parents pages of the district website: http://ballard.kyschools.us. MCCC currently works in 60 schools across Kentucky and has been in operation since the 1990s. The service prefers to use locally-based counselors when available.

Marshall County Schools is working on implementing a similar program for its students with an outside agency to provide counseling in all its schools. 

Baptist Health school based health clinics are at McCracken County High School and Heath area schools. They’re contracted through Four Rivers Behavioral Services, with a therapist on site daily.

Counseling services are also offered at Paducah Tilghman High School through Baptist Health’s on-site clinic.  Paducah Middle, Clark Elementary, McNabb Elementary, and Morgan Elementary all contract with licensed professional counselors to offer on-site services to students who are referred.

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