News Article Details

Line Mountain School District launches mental health initiative

Daily Item - 8/19/2019

Aug. 19--MANDATA -- The Line Mountain School District starts the new school year with a mental health initiative.

The elementary students in Trevorton have three professionals from Children's Service Center in Wilkes-Barre starting on Sept. 16 while district officials are expected to hire school psychologist and mental health/youth counselor for the secondary school in Mandata at the Aug. 27 public meeting. The first day of classes for Line Mountain is on Monday.

"It's a very important initiative," said Board President Troy Laudenslager. "We are fully supportive of the administration's decision to fill a position like this."

? Addressing mental health has been a topic across the nation as incidents involving gun violence in schools and public places occur more frequently.

The topic has also been brought up in the Valley after a 16-year-old Line Mountain student took his own life in 2018, two high school students at Midd-West took their own lives in February and a Southern Columbia Area School District 17-year-old student took his own life in March.

Director Lauren Hackenburg said the mental health initiative is a "fantastic, proactive way" to offer students resources to improve their mental health.

"The administration, board and teacher truly care about the full being of students," she said. "We're always looking for ways to improve, We are blessed by the county to have this program at the elementary level. A school-based behavioral health team should be in place at every school district."

School counselors are tasked with many mandated duties and have less and less time to talk with students about their mental health, said Hackenburg.

"We don't need cops or school resource officers, we need to be preventative, we need to look at the whole being," said Hackenburg. "I feel strongly that we at Line Mountain are doing what we can to meet the full needs of the students and I can't be more thrilled."

'Catching them early'

Josh Burns, the Children's Service Center's Northcentral Program Supervisor for Community and School Based Behavioral Health Teams, was at the elementary school on Wednesday meeting with teachers and Principal Jeanne Menko. The Center has programs in Mount Carmel Area, Shikellamy, Shamokin Area, Pottsville Area and Minersville Area.

"We generally find starting at the elementary school, identifying students and families early on, the longterm outcomes are better because we are catching them early and working with the families on different strategies," Burns said. "The outcomes are better than having six or seven years without any kind of service."

The elementary school will have one mental health professional and two behavioral health workers. The program provides behavioral health support in the school, classrooms, community or homes as needed during school, after school and on weekends. They can carry a caseload of 18 to 20 students, he said.

Teachers and administration can recommend the program to families, or families can request to be a part of the program, said Burns.

The day to day work allows for assessments and treatment plans based on the data found in the assessments. If a student has trouble focusing, the student can receive one on one coping skills and one on one interventions in the classroom or school-based office, he said.

The program comes at no cost to the district. The Center is funded through Count Medical Assistance dollars, Burns said.

"Districts are becoming more open to mental health services," Burns said. "I know how beneficial our programs can be."

Menko said she is "thankful" to be able to provide the program for students and their families.

"They provide a wide array of services that they can tap into to meet the needs of the students," she said.

Secondary positions

The district is advertising the secondary school positions on its website.

For school psychologist position, applicants need Pennsylvania School Psychology Certification. Responsibilities include administering and interpreting psychology assessments, consultation with regular education and special education teachers and assessment of education programs, according to the advertisement.

Applicants of the mental health/youth counselor for the secondary schools need to be a dynamic individual, possessing a strong desire to improve lives of secondary students. Applicants with a background in casework, mental health, positive behavior, support implementation, guidance counselor and social work are encouraged to apply, according to the advertisement.

The next public meeting for the Line Mountain School Board is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.Aug. 27 at the high school library in Mandata.

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(c)2019 The Daily Item (Sunbury, Pa.)

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