COLONIE — The North Colonie Central School District’s now has a fully functional mental health clinic on site.
After months of negotiations with the state Office of Mental Health, it is staffed by two certified social workers through a BOCES contract to help offset the cost. About $35,000 was allocated for the clinic in this year’s spending plan.
It is partly in response to the spate of school shootings that rocked the nation last year – the district also hired a School Resource Officer — but the benefits are more far reaching than school safety and social work and are based in the district’s fundamental mission of providing a sound education.
“The social and emotional growth of all students in our district is important. And that is driven by the fact we all have a vested interest in it and that includes every staff member and not just those specifically tasked with working with our students in the area of social and emotional health,” he said. “Each and every staff member has to be aware of the forces and the societal impacts on our students that contribute to social and emotional issues that ultimately impact learning.”
Other districts, such as Guilderland, South Colonie, Berne-Knox-Westerlo and Ballston Spa have similar clinics at their districts.
The two social workers would be available for referrals from full time staff such as counselors and psychologists. The social workers at the clinic are trained to deal with a wide variety of mental health issues at the high school campus so the students will still feel connected to the school setting while receiving whatever help they need.
“The emotional needs of students and families throughout the region, state and country are becoming more acute and we are seeing manifestations of the stressors students and families undergo in our schools,” Corr said. “We think working with our students, and helping them with their social and emotional health will make them more successful while learning in school. That would be a prime reason.”
According to Education Week, in 2018, there were 24 school shootings that involved an injury or death. Thirty-five students and staffers were killed in school. The most horrific incidents — 27 of the 35 deaths — being the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida and the May 18 rampage at Sante Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.
“Much of the research says if we can work with students, and identify students who may have issues that could perhaps lead to violence or violent behavior, that ability to provide that diagnosis and support to students is a very important proactive and preventative measure,” Corr said in reference to another benefit the clinic will provide.