MUSCATINE, Iowa–Over the last several years, as awareness about the importance of addressing mental health concerns has increased, parents, teachers, and school administrators have recognized the value of having mental health support services available in school. Director of Student Services Becky Wichers observed: “The need for additional support and services around mental health has been on the rise. There are students and families on a regular basis that reach out to our schools asking for assistance.”
To respond to this need, Muscatine Community School District’s school board approved a partnership with the Robert Young Center to provide a school-based therapist for Susan Clark Junior High School and Muscatine High School. In the near future, the district hopes to bring similar services to all of their elementary schools as well. “Knowing that this need is real and relevant caused us to reach out and develop a partnership for school-based therapy services,” elaborated Wichers.
A fully school-based program, the Robert Young Center therapist will split each day between seeing students at the junior high school and high school. With parental permission, the therapist can provide counseling services, as well as help students manage any medications they take and provide diagnostic services for any student with a suspected mental health concern. The therapist can also help with acute needs, assisting students if they find themselves in a crisis during the school day. If a student would benefit from more intensive or specialized services outside of school, the therapist can put them and their families in touch with the appropriate community resources.
To keep services accessible to all, students may receive any of the therapist’s services for free, even without insurance. The district does not limit the number of times a student can see the therapist, ensuring kids get the help they need for as long as they need it. For the convenience of students and their families, the therapist will offer services during school hours so that students do not need to arrange for special transportation. The district will provide counseling services all year long, ensuring that children can continue to get the help they need even during school breaks and holidays. “This partnership will allow students to access these supports in a way that minimizes potential obstacles and stigma,” Wichers emphasized.
As the district prepares to offer this new mental health support to students, the district believes they can help students take care of all their needs so that they can thrive and learn to the best of their abilities. “Our hope is that by providing our students with the services that they need to be happy and healthy, we can positively impact the daily desired experiences of our students, staff, and families,” stated Wichers: “This is a great example of community outreach and of how we as a school district can fully support the needs of our students. When young people are empowered with the tools they need to be successful, it benefits our entire community.”