Ames schools looking for an agency to provide mental health services
Ames Tribune - 4/5/2017
April 05--The Ames Community School District began the process last week of selecting an agency to "provide access to a full array of mental health services" to students at its elementary schools and Northwood Preschool Center during the 2017-18 school year.
The district published its request for proposal (RFP) on Friday, asking that interested agencies submit their plans to provide those services by 4 p.m. on May 12. In terms of specifics, the district wants to see how each agency interprets "a full array of services."
"We want them to show us in their proposal what that would look like, and that will help us decide which agency can better provide the services we're seeking," said Yonas Michael, Ames schools' student services director.
In their proposals, agencies will offer a proposed budget, services that will be available to students and how they plan to serve the students in the six buildings. In his proposed budget, Superintendent Tim Taylor carved out $30,000 for the services, and the contract is scheduled to be awarded in late May.
Taylor said that Yonas Michael and Darcy Cosens, the district's director of special education, have been asking for the addition of such mental health services over the past several years. Taylor said it's also become more of an issue around the state recently. So, with available funding for the 2017-18 school year, he slotted it into the budget.
Michael said he wants those services to help address the social, emotional and academic needs of the students with mental health challenges, whether it be an attention deficit disorder or something undiagnosed.
"We don't need a diagnosis to serve kids," he said. "What we need kids to have are supports both in the classroom and outside of the classroom that make sure that they are achieving academically at high levels."
Some students receive counseling outside school, said Meeker Elementary School Principal Steve Flynn. Having a mental health professional at school would make help available for a student who might have trouble getting it outside of school. Plus, Flynn and Michael both agreed an on-site therapist would be able to work together with school staff on how to help each student.
"We could help connect the dots," Flynn said.
Also in their proposals, the agencies will submit their goals, reference letters and an explanation of why Ames elementary students will benefit from their services. As for the district's high school and middle school, they already partner with Youth and Shelter Services and Lutheran Service in Iowa for some mental health services, including therapists at both buildings. Next year, the elementary schools will be able to provide that help, too.
"We're just trying to serve kids the best we can," Flynn said, "and we feel like that's a piece we don't have."
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