United Way celebrates success of behavioral health program

We are elated to share the outstanding results of a three-year Behavioral Health pilot program in Williamson County Schools! In 2016, United Way collaborated with non-profit partner Mercy Community Healthcare to provide accessible school-based behavioral and emotional counseling for youth in three Fairview schools. Since launching, the program has expanded into additional Williamson County schools, as well as schools in Marshall County.

Behavioral health is recognized by all sectors of healthcare as a leading cause of reduced academic time and success in our schools. Children and adolescents face many coming-of-age struggles that can deeply impact their personal and academic development, including identity crises, moral conflicts, broken families, and pressures to conform.

Program pre-participation testing with students and parents showed an average score of 28 (28 and higher indicates psychosocial impairment). After receiving counseling or intervention, student scores decreased to an average of 20, which indicates a significant reduction in various symptoms such as trouble sleeping, worrying a lot, sadness, disinterest in school, and getting hurt often. Overall, students are demonstrating improvement in behaviors that lead to better coping skills, school attendance, and academics.

“Having school-based counseling at Fairview High School has been a game changer for our students, families, and our community,” says Fairview High School Principal Kurt Jones.

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Caption: United Way and Mercy Community Healthcare representatives at Fairview High School.
Left to right: School-based Counseling Coordinator Leiah Drew-Hightower; Team Lead/Counselor Adam Dizer; UWWC President/CEO Pam Bryant; Counselor Jessica Hyne, UWWC Executive Board Member Kristi Morrow; Counselor Holly Toensing; Mercy CEO Cindy Siler; and Principal Kurt Jones.

The pilot program was initiated when United Way’s Community Needs Assessment (conducted in 2014 by Middle Tennessee State University with Williamson County government and the City of Franklin) revealed mental health service as a top three need among residents. Principals in the Fairview schools had also identified a strong need for counseling services at every grade level.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in five youth struggles with a mental health related issue during their school years. “Unfortunately, more than 50% of students do not receive the services they need to address these issues,” says Jonathan Boye, Chief Behavioral Health Officer for Mercy Community Healthcare. “Two of the main barriers to receiving treatment are transportation and the parent’s ability to take time off work to get their child to an appointment with a mental health professional.” With United Way’s help, Mercy’s school-based counseling program has removed these barriers.

Therapists are helping students cope with anxiety or depression, authority issues, anger management issues, and ADHD. They are also providing crisis interventions and teacher consultations, and there is integration with Primary Care when needed.

Caregivers are encouraged to contact Mercy Community Healthcare or call our office at 615-771-2312 for additional information on local counseling services.

May 14, 2019 | Education, Health