Mental health and support staff needed in schools

Virginia

The Warren County Public school division is just one of the many across the nation noticing the need for more mental health staff inside of their schools.

Warren County Public Schools are working to make sure they have enough programs in place to address students’ growing social and emotional needs. 

 “Kids show up on a Monday, and we ask them to do math and reading and all of these academically oriented things, but they’re coming in with a lot of other things,” school social worker Kyle Kuzmick says. 

And some times these things are addressed by teachers or school staff and the school divisions superintendent Greg Drescher is taking steps to ensure the schools have enough staff specifically trained in these areas. Drescher says support staff such as counselors and mental health professionals are just as important as in classroom-teachers. 

“We’re excited to have that opportunity, to help set the stage for our kids to be academically successful by addressing some of these underlying emotional needs that have really impacted their ability to be successful.” Kuzmick says. 

The division has been vigorously seeking out and securing grants and through local funding, it was able to create a role dedicated to social emotional and behavioral coaching… Joanna Martin who used to be a teacher says it was needed. 

 “When I returned back to the classroom I noticed a huge shift in the stresses in the classroom both with the teachers and the students.” social emotional behavioral coach Joanna Martin says. 

Special services’ director Michael Hirsch says he’s glad that those who have the power and pockets to fund these staff members and programs are viewing them as a necessity.

“That’s visionary and the superintendent and the school board have always had that vision to provide a whole range of services.” Michael Hirsch Special Services director says. 

Martin now services five of the divisions elementary schools and two middle schools 

“I also go in and do whole class lessons where we’re practicing mindfulness and the teachers are actually learning how to practice mindfulness with their students,” Martin says.

One of her main goals is to not only provide support for students but for the teachers, she says she knows from experience that teachers often take their students’ issues on as their own. 

“The need for making sure compassion fatigue doesn’t kick in and you start losing your effectiveness as a teacher in the classroom because you’re so concerned is something that’s critical,” Martin says.
The school division has also started to provide after school stress relief activities, coping strategy sessions and trauma trainings for teachers and support staff. 
 

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