Counseling services coming to Fruitport schools
Grand Haven Tribune - 8/21/2019
FRUITPORT -- A new service will be available to Fruitport school district families beginning in September.
Fruitport Community Schools and Hackley Community Care are partnering to bring mental health services to the district's students. Beginning with this school year, Fruitport's K-12 students can receive individual counseling and group therapy services through the Hackley Community Care office located at Edgewood Elementary School.
For several years, Fruitport schools and HCC officials have discussed ways they can bring additional student mental health services to the district, said Superintendent Bob Szymoniak, who noted that schools across the country are seeing an increase in mental health concerns for students.
Szymoniak said that while student mental health is on the minds of lawmakers as they develop school funding, Hackley Community Care received a grant to get the Fruitport services running. Overtime, the counseling office will become self-sustaining, he said.
In the coming weeks, Fruitport parents will be notified as to how they can receive the services. All insurances will be accepted, and nobody will be turned away for inability to pay, said Judy Pruim, school program manager for the Hackley Community Care Center.
The counseling office located in the school will receive referrals and self-referrals. While most will require parental consent, Pruim said that they follow state laws regarding mental health services including minors' ability to access care on their own.
Fruitport is one of four new sites for HCC. As of September, HCC will provide services at 13 school sites in Muskegon County, Pruim said.
Every site offers mental health services. Two sites also provide wellness programs with a school nurse. Two locations have teen health centers which provide primary care, medical, dental and mental health services for ages 5-21.
Fruitport students receiving services at the teen health centers can continue receiving services there, but Pruim recommended it might be more efficient to receive mental health services within their district.
Prior to the partnership, the school district worked to address mental health concerns by using school counselors and related staff.
"Unfortunately, there is more need than we have staff to cover," Szymoniak said. "This counseling office will really help address the needs of many more students than we have been able to help in the past."
In addition to partnering with Hackley Community Care, the Fruitport district has worked to support student mental health by implementing sensory spaces aimed at helping students regulate their emotions "along with several other trauma-informed practices" instructionally and physically in the classrooms and hallways, Szymoniak said.
Last year, the district added a therapy dog who visits students at Shettler and Beach elementary schools. The district also implemented a mentoring program that included 35 community members and students. Additionally, the district's social workers, counselors, behavioral specialists, psychologists and administrators work with the positive behavior interventions and supports systems program.
"Even with all of these supports, we still have student mental health needs that go unmet," Szymoniak said.
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