Floyd Cty, IN: District adds more counselors; kids coming to school with more problems

June 8, 2018, Jeffersonville (IN) News and Tribune: Therapists in schools program shows promise As conversations around preventing gun violence in schools continue across the country, one local school district has taken action. New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. recently wrapped up its first year of increased mental health access for students. Last fall, the district brought licensed therapists into 14 of its 15 school buildings, funded by a four-year Lilly Endowment. The grant money decreases incrementally each year; the goal is for the therapists to carry established caseloads and be primarily self-sustaining. “The proactive part of [preventing] these school shootings is what we are doing with our mental health program,” said Louis Jensen, assistant superintendent of high school education. So far, each therapist has between 20 and 30 clients, Jensen said. A self-sustaining caseload can vary because of different insurance situations, but Jensen estimates 35 to 45 students a therapist would keep the program going. A therapist is in every school but Greenville Elementary School, a vacancy Jensen hopes will be filled for the 2018-19 school year…. Jensen said the same, noting therapists can go more in-depth when it comes to social and emotional turmoil, whereas counselors cover those arenas as well as career and college readiness. There is a “significant” need, Niemeier said, for these therapists to be embedded in the schools. “... More and more students are coming to school with a lack of self-regulation and problem-solving skills and increased trauma in their lives. Teachers and school counselors are not trained to handle mental health issues and thus need the support of a therapist to help children learn strategies to self-regulate and use appropriate social skills. When students are calm and able to problem solve, they can learn new skills and excel in their academics,” she said…. A 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed 29 percent of high-schoolers in Indiana had feelings of depression and 20 percent indicated they were seriously considering attempting suicide. When it comes to younger students, one out of seven U.S. children aged 2 to 8 years were diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder, according to a 2012 survey from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. These mental health diagnoses, in addition to the other myriad of issues that can happen in a student’s life outside school — such as enduring mental or physical abuse, living in a dysfunctional family or going through the foster care system, Jensen said — can be the root cause of disruptions in the classroom and learning process….