Sweetwater County School District #1 prioritizes mental wellness

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Extensive efforts are being made to support mental wellness for all Sweetwater School District #1 Students.

Wyo4News staff, [email protected] [PRESS RELEASE]

December 5, 2023 — Extensive efforts are being made to support mental wellness for all Sweetwater School District #1 Students. We understand the importance of supporting the whole child, and SWSD#1 continues to find ways to fund school counselors and social workers at all levels despite the limitations of the school funding model. School counselors and social workers cannot do this work alone. All staff members are part of identifying student needs and supporting all students. Additionally, some students’ needs exceed the scope of work for our school counselors. SWSD#1 is actively utilizing resources and funding outside of the school funding model to meet those needs.

In late 2021, SWSD#1 partnered with the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) to apply for and was consequently awarded a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) grant. This five-year grant, valued at $414,000.00 a year, has supported training, materials, and services to implement mental health-related awareness, prevention, intervention, and resilience-building activities that ensure school-aged youth have access to and are connected to appropriate and effective behavioral health services. In December 2022, SWSD #1 received an additional grant, the SAMHSA Trauma-Informed Services in Schools (TISS). This four-year grant supplies $100,000 a year to the district in addition to a full-time dedicated therapeutic counselor and mental health support aid. With these grants, we aim to promote healthy social and emotional development of school-aged youth and prevent youth violence in school settings

These additional funds and resources have allowed training for staff, students, and the community in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). YMHFA’s call to action states, “As a youth mental health first aider, you can be the one to make a difference in the life of someone with a mental health challenge. Your actions can be a first step in a youth’s recovery journey”. Participants in these trainings have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn how to increase their awareness of the impact of mental health challenges on our young people and give them hope that we all can be part of the solution.

SAMHSA grants also continue to support the implementation of Sources of Strength at our secondary schools. Sources is an evidence-based, strength-focused intervention that focuses on student voice and peer networking to strengthen students’ protective factors. The goal is to give our students strengths to rely on during hard times.

A huge celebration for our school community is the availability of direct therapeutic care. Two grant-funded dedicated counselors from our behavior health partner, Wyoming Behavioral Institute, provide or have provided care to 77 students. Once parent consent is obtained, the grant team works to remove barriers to accessing mental health care by providing the care during the school day (no need for transportation) and at no cost to the family.

When students have access to mental wellness support (whether whole group support or individualized care), students can focus on the learning tasks of school. 1 in 5 youth will have a diagnosable mental health challenge, and only about 10% typically receive care. Our district is working with our partners to change this narrative in our community through caring for our students’ well-being, teaching our adults to identify needs and support our kids, and teaching our kids skills to support themselves and each other.

If you or someone you know requires immediate assistance, please call or text the crisis line at 988 to connect to support. If you want to explore services for your student, please contact your school counselor or our grant manager, Annie Fletcher [email protected] 307-352-3400 ext. 1259) directly. If you would like to use a mental health connection service anonymously, we are happy to offer Care Solace as a resource (funded through state-level AWARE funds) by calling 888-515-0595, or visiting Care Solace – Sweetwater County School District #1.