By Ben Rodgers
ASHWAUBENON – The Ashwaubenon School District will be using a $69,500 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction maximize the potential of students, staff and parents, according to district staff.
The district was one of 64 to receive a portion of $3.25 million to expand mental health services, DPI announced Monday, July 23.
“We’ve really made a focus over the last two years to really start looking at the mental health needs of the kids in our district,” said Tammy Nicholson, director of pupil services. “We have found we have more and more kids that struggle with mental health and need services teachers can’t just provide.”
Nicholson will start the process early next week to bring in a part-time, limited-term student wellness coordinator who will corrall resources in the area, work with staff and track data.
“It will help us get a student wellness coordinator hired for the district who can pull all of it together,” she said. “But that person will also be evaluating and tracking our mental health supports in the district and meeting with community agencies and district staff to provide more resources for families and district staff.”
For the past two years, ASD has ran a satellite clinic out of Parkview Middle School.
School employees met with social workers and school counselors to identify needs in students.
If a student is identified who could benefit, Nicholson said the social workers or counselors connect with parents to discuss different options.
The district works to coordinate the efforts, but the cost is paid through the parents’ health insurance.
Last year the program expanded to Ashwaubenon High School, and for the 2018-19 school year will be offered in Valley View and Pioneer elementary schools.
“The biggest thing with mental health is getting kids before they get so significant that they need extensive health services,” Nicholson said.
She said Wisconsin is a great state when it comes to mental health services. Currently the district works with Brown County and other community-based services to provide resources and strategies to improve mental health.
“(The new role) is coordinating but it’s also bringing in and looking at what’s out there for social and emotional learning,” Nicholson said.
She also said the new role will research and find ways of introducing mental health concepts into existing curriculum.
“It’s very overwhelming for kids,” Nicholson said. “We’re seeing more and more issues with anxiety because so much is accessible and kids don’t know how to deal with it.”
DPI said the grant is a good start, but more needs to be done in the future.
“In a given year, one in five students faces a mental health issue, with more than 80 percent of incidents going untreated. Those students who do get help, more often than not, receive it through their school,” said Tony Evers, state superintendent. “This grant is a good start toward student mental health needs. But, we absolutely must do more to address student mental health so our kids have the support they need to be successful in school and eventually their communities.”