MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama State Department of Education and Alabama State Legislatures, worked together to allocate $4.5 million to Mental Health Service Coordinators. Back on October 1st of 2020, the funds were released for district Superintendents to go through the hiring process.
The new role offers students somewhere they can go to seek help if they are struggling. The state says that its number one concern has always been the safety of its students and their education. But, if their mental well being is compromised, it can affect both.
Dr. Kay Warfield who oversees school mental health issues from a state level and says, “This grant really allowed us to drill down if you will, and uncover some of those obstacles and match appropriate solutions and interventions to support the students and the families.”
The 2020 school year was difficult for many students, with the uncertainty of remote, hybrid or in person learning many struggled. With all those constant uncertainties, Warfield says the pandemic, students who struggled with a variety of things proved to be far greater, “it really made it evident that we have so many ills that used to be for just a few kids, um, that then became the ills of a lot of our children, because then they had no safe place to go at school.”
Coordinators were trained in mid October of 2020 and have been working with students for almost three month. In those three months, Warfield says they’ve already seen an improvement, “but the impact that they have had, the achievements, the accomplishments and building community partner ships, um interfacing within the info structures of the school, processes like school improvement plans, problem solving teams, the multi tiered support system, has been incredible.”
The well being of a student is measured in three tiers that are not new to the state, known as the multi tier support system. Tiers one and two, Warfield says the goal of a coordinator is that students don’t get to a tier three.
Tier one she says is standard operating procedure for what is occuring. Tier two is a more targeted approach to a problem, “like with attendance, to see what the obstacles are and so this special group would be meeting with a supervisor to help them find a solution,” and tier three she says is when individual students require outside services.
Warfield says the emphasis of this position is crutial and is important that it is kept, ” I hope school districts embrace the help these new mental health service coordinators bring and that they become woven into the fabric of the school’s family.”