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15 Mental Health Counselors Will Be Based In JCPS Schools


For the first time, Jefferson County Public Schools will have mental health counselors based in schools.Fifteen will be added to school buildings in the upcoming academic year.The counselors will supplement other services provided to students, like Seven Counties Services,  and take some of the workload away from school guidance counselors, said said Michelle Sircy, the district’s counselor specialist. The new mental health counselors will primarily be working with students that need intensive support and don’t qualify for state run services, which can be the case if a student has private insurance.“This is going to really bridge the gap and make sure that all of our kids’ needs are met,” Sircy said.The counselors will be based in schools that have the greatest need for mental health assistance, as determined by district administrators. But they may also be dispatched to any school if mental health services or special skill-sets are required.  Sircy said she believes the 15 mental health counselors will be enough  to make an impact in a district with nearly 100,000 students.“When you look at the entire big picture I think it is going to be a huge gain for our students,” she said.But she added it is too early to tell if every school needs a mental health counselor on staff—and it's difficult to know precisely how many mental health counselors are needed.The district will collect data throughout the school year to determine the impact the counselors have on student performance.The mental health issues of the “general population” of students will be dealt with by a school guidance counselor or Seven Counties, Sircy said.“The goal for the mental health counselors is really for the more intensive kids,” Sircy said. There are no projections to how many “intensive kids” will actually need the service being made available by the mental health counselors, but Sircy said this is still a big addition to the district’s larger goal of providing mental health support to students.The addition of the 15 counselors will come at the cost of $686,000 to the district, said JCPS spokeswoman Mandy Simpson.  The mental health counselors will be based in:Rutherford ElementaryWaggener High (7-8)Wheatley ElementaryGilmore Lane/Camp Taylor elementary schoolsFarnsley MiddleValley High (7-8)ESL AcademyIroquois HighPrice ElementaryTrunnell ElementaryThomas Jefferson MiddleRamsey MiddleSeneca HighKlondike ElementaryBlake/Blue Lick elementary schoolsCorrection: Because of a source error, this story previously misstated JCPS' budget for the mental health counselors.

Jacob Ryan is an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.