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Mental health counselors visit every institution in Madison City Schools District

MADISON, Ala - It's national school counselor week and the Madison City School District is thankful for theirs. Last year the superintendent of Madison City Schools pushed to increase the number of counselors in the district and get mental health counselors into every school into every school, including elementary schools.

Stephanie Allen is the school counselor at West Madison Elementary. She provides one-on-one and group counseling as well as teaching certain lessons to entire classes. Her goal is to help develop the students in several areas.

"Academics, to help support personal and social areas, and even career development at the elementary school level," she said.

She says the school makes it easy for students to access a counselor.

"They can make that request themselves and a lot of them do. I have notes that are put outside my door on a daily basis of students who are wanting to talk to me about some sort of issue," she said.

A teacher or faculty member can also recommend that a student visits with her if they believe it is needed.

Last school year Superintendent Robby Parker made it clear he believes having counselors in schools helps with safety. More counselors were added to schools as part of his plan. Allen says having access to a counselor at the elementary level is important when it comes to addressing problems or issues early.

"We are able to focus a lot on the prevention and even early intervention because students can start to have difficulties in areas of anxiety, coping with difficult emotions, even peer interaction from an early age," she said.

Also new this year, the district has partnered with the Enrichment Center to bring mental health counselors into schools. Nita Woodson is an enrich and impact counselor. She visits West Madison Elementary once a week.

"If I can give them coping skills on how to deal with stressors in life now they will have those the rest of their life," Woodsen said.

Allen says along with counseling services, creating a school culture where students feel valued and heard is an important part of safety in schools.

The counseling and mental health services are offered for free to students.

Last year Parker asked the community to donate to the district to provide money to fund school resource officers and mental health counselors at schools since these positions are not funded by the state.

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