On-site men­tal health clin­ics funded by a non­profit are aid­ing schools.

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - By Amelia Pak-har­vey Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal

Tara Pow­ell knew there was a need to im­prove aca­demics and stu­dent be­hav­ior at Brown Academy in Hen­der­son when she came on as prin­ci­pal two years ago.

That also meant ad­dress­ing an­other chal­lenge: im­prov­ing men­tal health.

Last year alone, the mid­dle school ini­ti­ated 118 “sui­cide pro­to­cols,” an assess­ment that oc­curs when a stu­dent ex­presses thoughts of sui­cide. But the re­sponse to the men­tal health chal­lenges was tem­po­rary, Pow­ell said.

“We were al­most putting a BandAid on the sit­u­a­tion, and we weren’t get­ting to the root cause be­cause they weren’t con­tin­u­ing on their ther­apy,” she said.

That’s where site-based ther­apy came into play.

This year, Brown is one of five Clark County schools with on-site men­tal health clin­ics equipped with li­censed ther­a­pists and in­take spe­cial­ists, all funded by the non­profit United Char­ity Foun­da­tion.

The well­ness clin­ics, which first ap­peared at Val­ley High School in 2016, make men­tal health more ac­ces­si­ble for all stu­dents by pro­vid­ing ser­vices to all chil­dren who need them, re­gard­less of whether they have in­surance.

That’s im­por­tant in the Clark County School District, which is strug­gling with a school psy­chol­o­gist short­age while grad­u­ally build­ing up its so­cial worker ros­ter through state grants.

“By hav­ing the site-based ther­apy here, we can, in a dis­creet man­ner, get the kid what they need, and then they can meet their full po­ten­tial aca­dem­i­cally, be­hav­iorally, so­cial-emo­tion­ally,” Pow­ell said. “So it truly has been game-chang­ing.”

The United Char­ity Foun­da­tion,

founded by Ash Mir­chan­dani in 2010, runs the cen­ters through roughly $640,000 in state grants and pri­vate do­na­tions. Each cen­ter costs the foun­da­tion $140,000 a year, which cov­ers the cost of one ther­a­pist and one in­take spe­cial­ist to help with sched­ul­ing ap­point­ments and ob­tain­ing con­sent.

While the cen­ters take in­surance or bill through Med­i­caid when pos­si­ble, they do not turn away unin­sured or un­doc­u­mented stu­dents, said Shari Brown, the foun­da­tion’s di­rec­tor of de­vel­op­ment.

And the need is still great. Brown said the foun­da­tion has wait­ing lists of stu­dents and schools that need

the clin­ics.

“We prob­a­bly are the last man stand­ing for Clark County as far as stu­dent-based men­tal health clin­ics be­cause, again, we’re not driven by the money nec­es­sar­ily. We’re more driven by the out­come,” she said.

At Brown Academy, school ad­min­is­tra­tion refers stu­dents for ther­apy, which re­quires parental con­sent. Ther­apy ses­sions are of­fered dur­ing the stu­dent’s elec­tive classes.

For Pow­ell, the well­ness cen­ter is one re­source for tack­ling men­tal health.

“We ap­proach teach­ing and learn­ing with a trauma-in­formed ap­proach,” she said. “We as­sume that all stu­dents have ex­pe­ri­enced some type of trauma. How are we go­ing to in­ter­act with those kid­dos? How are we go­ing to de­velop pos­i­tive

or ap­pro­pri­ate re­la­tion­ships? How are we go­ing to meet all their needs while giv­ing them those high expectatio­ns with aca­demics so they can rise above and get to the next level?”

So far this school year, Brown Academy has seen im­prove­ment. As of mid-novem­ber, it had in­sti­tuted fewer sui­cide pro­to­cols than it did dur­ing the same pe­riod last year.

“We’ve seen be­hav­iors go down tremen­dously,” Pow­ell said. “There’s a lot of things that have been put into place, but UCF, be­ing that in­ter­ven­tion where we can get to the root cause, has been in­te­gral.”

Ellen Sch­midt Las Ve­gas Re­view-jour­nal @el­lenkschmid­t_

Prin­ci­pal Tara Pow­ell poses in the well­ness cen­ter at Brown Academy in Hen­der­son, where stu­dents re­ceive on-site men­tal health ther­apy from li­censed pro­fes­sion­als.

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