Column: District 518 offers mental health servicesThe school social work program is intended to provide early prevention and intervention services to families and children receiving special education services
By: Tricia Denzer, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The school social work program is intended to provide early prevention and intervention services to families and children receiving special education services. School social workers are a link connecting home, school and community in an effort to collaboratively meet the individual needs of students and families. As members of the educational team, school social workers promote and support academic and social success by providing individual counseling, small group counseling and parental support.
At Prairie Elementary, Angie Meyer offers individual counseling for children dealing with grief, anger management, social skills, friendship skills, self-esteem, hygiene, homework help, family change, emotion control and healthy decision making. Small group counseling is also available to Prairie students. These groups are offered once a week for 30 minutes during the school day at a time that minimizes the impact on the child’s participation in class. One of the groups offered is Sibs (Siblings), a support group designed to assist students who have siblings with a significant disability. This group is co-facilitated with school counselor Laurie Knudson.
At the Middle School and High School, Jill Bents also meets with students individually to focus on helping students manage their mental health, as well as learning new coping and social skills. Topics include: impulse control, anger management, conflict resolution, emotion regulation and positive peer relations. Students meet on average one time per week for 30 minutes. Goals are set and reviewed as the year progresses. An additional program offered at the secondary level, which provides more “hands on” skills training, is called Guidance group. Guidance is a more intensive mental health group consisting of approximately six students in which students continue building on skills such as anger management and coping with anxiety, while also learning appropriate group interactions. This group is built into the student’s schedule, which meets five days a week for 42 minutes at the Middle School, and one day per week for 30 minutes at the High School. In January, Jill will be starting parent nights for those parents who have children enrolled in the Guidance Program. Together, we can make a difference!
Angie and Jill also offer transition groups for students transitioning between Prairie Elementary and the Middle School, as well as from the Middle School to the High School. Because a healthy transition is critical to our student’s success, we begin this group in the spring and continue on through the fall, allowing for two full quarters of support. For many young adolescents, the transition between schools can be a time of mixed emotions, and it can also be an opportunity for new beginnings. Our goal is that the transition group will reduce students’ anxiety and increase their confidence level upon entering the new setting.
School social workers collaborate with service providers within our community. Families may be referred to outside agencies such as Helping Hands Pregnancy Center, Southwestern Mental Health Center, Nobles County Family Services and Southwest Crisis Center for extra support. An exciting addition to the mental health services offered within our district is a program called School-Based Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) through Southwestern Mental Health. School-Based CTSS is a three-year grant the Department of Human Services Children’s Mental Health Division created to assist with starting up school-based mental health services for children and adolescents regardless of their ability to pay. The overall goals of the grant are to assist students with one or more identified mental health needs and to aid them in successfully engaging in social, academic and daily activities. These services will be offered during the school day and will continue through the summer months.
If you or your family would like to visit with a school social worker, or if you have questions about your child’s mental health, contact Jill Bents at 372-1603 regarding Middle School, High School, or Alternative Learning Center, or Angela Meyer at Prairie Elementary at 727-1268.
Tricia Denzer is District 518’s director of special programs.