New Albany and Union County School District officials are thankful that therapists are in all the schools to help students and families.
“With mental health cases on the rise, it is important to have these therapists in our school to help reduce the stigma that is sometimes associated with mental health,” a New Albany School District statement said.
The therapists in the local schools are provided by Tupelo-based Lifecore Health Group.
"We're very appreciative that Lifecore supplies these therapists for us,” said Union County School District Assistant Superintendent Windy Faulkner.
The therapists build a lot of relationships between the schools and families, Faulkner added.
Having the therapists at schools is also helpful because parents do not have to take off work for their children to see a therapist somewhere else, Faulkner noted.
“I think they help a lot of children (and their families),” she said.
The Union County School District has four schools but three Lifecore therapists. One of the therapists splits time between Ingomar and East Union while Myrtle and West Union each have their own therapist.
The New Albany School District has four Lifecore therapists: two at New Albany Elementary, one at New Albany Middle and one at New Albany High.
“These therapists are a wonderful addition to our support staff as they help link home life and school life,” the New Albany School District statement said.
“They are an asset to these students and their families as they assist them in connecting them with medical services and community resources that are available,” said New Albany School District Superintendent Dr. Lance Evans said.
The purpose of the therapists in schools is “to provide clinical services to children who may have emotional disturbances or behavioral problems,” said Keona Harris, children and youth services coordinator for Lifecore Health Group based in Tupelo.
“We build very strong and healthy relationships with our families,” said Harris. “I see a lot of change happening.”
Therapists in the schools may provide individual, group or family therapy. Family therapy is often held within the home and involves working on communication skills and other issues.
The individual therapy is an intensive form of therapy to help children with issues they may face at home, school or in the community. Medication can also be provided if needed.
It is helpful for the children to have someone they can talk to about issues while they are at school, said Harris.
“I think it's highly important,” she said. “For the most part we're getting good feedback from our parents, saying, 'yes, we want this service, it's working for us. We want to continue.'”
There is also an intensive form of group therapy called day treatment, which is available at New Albany High School. The goal of day treatment is to prevent children from going into a hospital setting or residential treatment. Children in day treatment work on skills such as anger management and conflict resolution.
“We're sowing seeds, and they are taking root and these kids are getting better and they're functioning in the community,” Harris said.
If a crisis occurs after hours, there is a Mobile Crisis Emergency Response Team, which can help people who may be having an emotional breakdown or suicidal thoughts. The response team can be reached by calling 1-866-255-9986.