PSD partners with Willowbrooke
A factor that keeps some students from being successful in the classroom has to do with their mental health, and now Polk School District is putting together a partnership to ensure local youth are getting the care they need.
Over the past months, Polk School District has worked with Willowbrooke at Tanner and their partnership via Polk Medical Center for informative talks on suicide prevention, and also on opioid and alcohol addiction.
Now the group is bringing a new offering that won’t cost the school district any extra, but will require parents to either provide insurance or get help with covering the costs of treatment.
Dr. Katie Thomas, who helped organize the meetings at the College and Career Academy with Willowbrooke at Tanner officials, said that conversations had after those meetings over how the medical group could be of help to the Polk School District through a coming program called Graduate Polk brought about this idea.
Students who have mental health problems often run into the problem of how to make appointments work with their school schedule, and in many cases parents can’t get the time off to get children to needed appointments with counselors or psychiatrists.
“Mental health issues are definitely present, they’re on the rise, and they are something that we need to address,” Thomas said. “They aren’t going away anytime soon, and we definitely have a need.”
To help fill that gap is a proposal put up by the medical group who won’t be charging Polk School District a penny, but will be utilizing school facilities.
Willowbrooke at Tanner program manager Debra Price brought the details of a proposal to the school board last week, and laid out how it will work.
Essentially, the program will bring in a counselor for students to see during the school day at pre-set times, with parents’ insurance billed like regular appointments would be with a doctor locally or outside the county.
Price said the idea is to not only provide a student with continuity in their schedule by getting them to appointments in a local environment without having to miss school, and also to make themselves available to parents to help them keep informed of how their child is doing in counseling and going so far as to go to their homes over the summer.
Additionally, if parents don’t have health insurance and students need mental health services, Price said Willowbrooke at Tanner will help a child’s family find the services.
“We’re already working with several school districts in the area,” Price said.
She said Haralson County, Carroll County and Douglass already have a program in place, and Polk would be a fourth.
“The idea is to embed our counselors into the school community, so students can get the care they need without having to leave the campus,” she said.
It will start with small steps, with Willowbrooke looking to start with counselors positioned at Cedartown and Rockmart High Schools, but move around as needed.
Board members did have several questions about how the program would work, including over age limit, their involvement with the Division of Family and Children Services and police, and how they would handle special cases.
Price said that all students will have an opportunity to participate if they need counseling services, and that they will always get DFCS or police involved if necessary.
She did say that if Willowbrooke at Tanner couldn’t provide a service in-house, they would get a specialist involved in response to Board Member Chris Culver’s question over students who might need help with issues like autism, for instance.