MCPS adding eight mental health clinicians to schools

Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 4:04 PM EDT
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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - When Montgomery County Public Schools students head back to the classroom this year, they’ll have additional resources to help with mental health needs.

MCPS is adding eight clinicians to its schools through New River Valley Community Services.

“What we realized is after COVID, that we had some mental health needs for our students that weren’t being met,” MCPS Superintendent Bernard Bragen Jr. said.

These clinicians will spend most of their time in the county’s elementary schools.

“Sometimes we don’t recognize that the needs are really pervasive there; we tend to focus more on the secondary schools, middle school and high school where the needs are more immediate sometimes,” Bragen Jr. said.

“By providing that prevention at a young age, we are able to get them the skills needed to be more successful, long-term,” NRVCS Program Director J. Lynne Winebarger said.

The services are covered by MCPS so students and families will not have to pay.

“Services vary based on the each individual child’s needs, so anywhere from once a week to once a month, some of our positions will be a daily service, more focused on behavioral needs of students,” Winebarger said.

Right now, MCPS says these eight positions will be here for this year only, but the school district hopes to continue this resource beyond 2023-2024.

“I think the most important thing is if some of our students learn some of those self-regulation skills and how to identify when they are feeling anxious or feeling some stressors that seem a little bit out of control, what are some things that they can do themselves and learn to be more self-sufficient,” Bragen Jr. said.

“The impact really is that these students are getting services that they otherwise don’t get in the community,” Winebarger said. “These students have a lot of barriers to accessing services in the community, whether that’s a lack of the resource in the community, or if it’s transportation, families work schedule, or other barriers.”