FLORENCE, Ala. — As the State of Alabama expands funding for mental health services in schools, AL.com is recognizing Florence City Schools as a model that other systems can look to for guidance.
In 2020, lawmakers allocated $4.5 million in grants for school districts to hire mental health services coordinators.
Florence City Schools, however, saw the need for mental health services back in 2002, striking a partnership with the Riverbend Center for Mental Health.
Casey Reed oversees the program for the school system. “With those services, what we provide is we provide a counselor for access for our students at the school level,” Reed said. “Our students do not have to go and make an appointment at a different location, depend on someone else to get them to those services.”
Reed said that too often mental health can be an afterthought but having access to those services is needed especially during times like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pressures that society and daily life that puts on these teenagers, home, things of that nature, as those tend to increase and how students deal with those, the need for provision of mental health services has increased and I feel like it will continue to increase,” Reed said.
Superintendent Jimmy Shaw said a student’s mental health is just as important as any other factor on their path to academic success.
“We know many things are important but in this school system, the whole child is important and we have a history of services that we try to provide to say that, to prove that,” Shaw said.
Understanding that the pandemic has been tough on everyone, not just students, Florence City Schools used its grant money to provide mental health services to teachers and other faculty as well.