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Polk Cty, FL: Districts wants more mental health services; "uptick in elementary behaviors"

June 19, 2018, Winter Haven (FL) News Chief: Polk schools plan to boost mental health support A plan is taking shape to boost mental health services for students in Polk County’s public school system. The proposal unveiled during Tuesday’s School Board work session would allocate $2.4 million for the coming year to increase assessments, diagnoses, interventions and treatments for students deemed in need of some form of support. The allocation from the state Department of Education would add as many as two dozen mental health professionals to the School District’s ranks and create three intensive behavior units at Floral Avenue, Lake Shipp and North Lakeland elementary schools. Each of the three units would provide a spectrum of specialized services to five or six students demonstrating the most severe levels of disruptive behaviors…. Polk Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said a rise in worrisome behaviors at the elementary school level led to the plan’s initial emphasis on that age group. “We have seen an uptick in elementary behaviors,” more so than at the middle-school level, she said. Students targeted for intensive behavior therapies at one of the three elementary school sites will be pioneers of sorts as district officials fine tune the plan for expansion into higher grades…. Nationally, 20 percent of all students had a significant mental health issue this year, according to the School District’s draft of its mental health plan. These children are at increased risk of dropping out of school, abusing drugs and alcohol, getting caught up in juvenile delinquency and suicide.

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