By: Nora Fox and Sara Langworthy
One of the pervasive questions plaguing many schools today is how to appropriately handle the mental health concerns facing their students. Hiring more behavior staff or counselors in schools is one approach that has had some success, but is costly to schools. This approach focuses primarily on the in-school challenges, and lacks coordinated family-based support many children need to thrive.
We know that kids learn best when their homes, schools, and neighborhoods promote their health and well-being. But often the logistical impracticalities of providing comprehensive mental health services for children in schools and at home overwhelm capacity of well-meaning staff and students.
In short, everyone gets frustrated, and the challenges get worse, seeping into every classroom, playground, and school bus.
But, Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul, is pioneering a model of linking mental health services in home and school environments.
Bruce Vento has partnered with Family Innovations, a private Twin Cities-based mental health clinic system that provides outpatient therapy and counseling services for a wide range of clients from infancy to adulthood. With outpatient clinics throughout the metro area, Family Innovations offers community-based counseling services to children, youth, and adults. Through this new partnership with the Saint Paul Public School district, Family Innovations is expanding its model to include therapy and mental health counseling to Bruce Vento’s students in the school as well.
How many students and staff are involved?
As of the end of the 2014-2015 school year, over 50 children and their families were receiving services from Family Innovations. Most of these children were not receiving mental health services prior to the partnership with Family Innovations. There are 5 full time master’s trained counselors on the Family Innovations staff who are seeing children at the school, and are supervised by Kiley Krocak, MSW, LICSW. These staff also do a series of home visits and sessions with families as well to provide comprehensive family-based and school support services for the students of Bruce Vento.
|Ed Frickson and Kily Krocak discuss the partnership between |
Family Innovations and Bruce Vento School
How did the partnership begin?
The partnership with Family Innovations began a year ago when Judy Myers, project lead and Extension Educator, connected Bruce Vento’s Principal Scott Masini with Ed Frickson, President of Family Innovations. The relationships between Family Innovations and Bruce Vento grew quickly after that initial meeting as Frickson and the Saint Paul school district developed partnership model. Kiley Krocak was soon thereafter enlisted to lead the project and ensure its long-term success.
How does the model work?
No money changes hands between Family Innovations and the Saint Paul Public Schools. Family Innovations is able to bill a family’s insurance directly. Many of the children receiving services are receiving Medicaid and are eligible for mental health services. In addition, Family Innovations is able to bill private insurance companies, making their services available to most students at the school.
What has made this partnership successful?
According to Krocak, the behavioral staff, teachers, social workers, and nurses at Bruce Vento have been instrumental in supporting the work of the Family Innovations therapy team. Additionally, support from key leaders (such as Masini and the school district’s Assistant Superintendent) has buoyed the project, allowing therapists to build the necessary relationships between families, schools, teachers, and social workers. Therapists also enjoy the added benefit of working collaboratively on-site, creating a high level of team support among practitioners. For more about this partnership, see our project website here: http://www.extension.umn.edu/family/cyfc/our-programs/healthy-bodies-minds-learners/
Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Learners is an ongoing partnership between the Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium and the Bruce Vento Elementary School. Together, along with many other partners, we are developing engaging learning environments that promote student learning and wellness.