A proposed policy establishing a framework for mental health care in Eau Claire schools would be the first of its kind at the state level if the school board adopts it at its next meeting, board President Joe Luginbill said.
Board members read through the proposed policy at its Monday meeting and plan to pass it when they next meet on Sept. 24. It outlines a three-tier framework that aims to improve accessibiliy to school-based mental health care by building relationships with students, identifying problems early and following up with individualized strategies for struggling students if needed.
“There are no policies at the state level through the school board association that are a sample policy regarding student mental health services,” Luginbill said. “If we’re able to have a first reading of this and subsequently adopt it, this will become a sample policy for the state.”
The policy draft references what’s known as a school branch office — a mental health clinic within a school building that has clinic-employed mental health providers whom students can utilize. Families pay for that service through Medicaid, private insurance, self-pay or other external sources.
The district already has multiple school branch offices, Luginbill said, but the policy proposal outlines a strategic tier system that could help school staff better detect if a student is struggling and needs help accessing care. The first tier involves mental health and wellness education; the second targets early identification and progress monitoring; and the third contains intensive services that may include collaboration with other government agencies.
Board members were satisfied with the proposed policy after conducting a first reading and didn’t suggest any changes.
Bobbi Green, a mother of two seniors in the district, wasn’t quick to applaud the policy, however. She wondered what the policy would do for those students whose families can’t afford mental health care through their insurance plan.
“I think it makes us look like we’re moving in the right direction,” Green said of the policy, “when really we’re pushing it into the private sector.”
Luginbill and schools Superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck pointed to a couple of programs that help students who can’t afford mental health services, including the Comprehensive Community Services program through the county Department of Human Services.
Hardebeck noted this policy is a starting point in its recent response to mental health needs in the district.
“This is a beginning for us in terms of being able to address these needs,” Hardebeck said. “We see more and more students coming to us with these needs. The policy will give us a foundation for our work.”
The policy proposal comes after the district received a $41,000 mental health grant in June from Marshfield Clinic Health System and Security Health Plan, which will go toward training staff in how to respond to students having a mental health crisis.
To view a copy of the proposed policy, visit bit.ly/2CGP8Ud.
In other news
The school district’s enrollment in summer school programs jumped from 5,881 in 2016 to 8,723 in 2018.
In a report to the school board about this year’s summer programs, Dave Oldenberg, director of academic services, said allowing kids to stay on site all day may be a contributing factor to enrollment growth as parents who work during the day find that easier to accommodate.
Oldenberg also noted that kids ate breakfast and lunch for free this year, a new addition to the district’s summer school programming.
Contact: 715-830-5828, email@example.com, @LaurenKFrench on Twitter