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Bartholomew Co. Program Seeks To Provide Students With Mental Health Resources

(WFIU/WTIU News)

The Bartholomew County School Corp. is developing a program to improve the mental health of students. Counseling Counts focuses on prevention and discussion of mental illness in schools.

The program is funded by a grant from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Lilly Endowment designed to help address counseling needs in schools. Bartholomew County schools paired it with local funding from Heritage Columbus to create Counseling Counts.

Bill Jensen is director of secondary education for the district. He says school counselors are meant to focus on academic prep, career readiness, college readiness and social and emotional wellbeing. But Jensen says counselors increasingly find themselves focused on other areas of students’ lives.

“There was an issue with more and more counselor time being taken away from those four areas of need to be working on testing, to be working on accounting, to be working on clerical work,” Jensen says.

Jensen says Counseling Counts is designed to provide other avenues for that discussion so counselors can return to those areas of focus.

The program is made up of two tiers. The first is providing each student access to mental health care providers in each of the school buildings. Jensen says every middle school has two care providers, and by the start of the spring semester, each of the remaining schools will have at least one.

The second tier focuses on preventative measures.

“So that’s a whole program or a whole system of building developmental assets, developmental relationships with our students,” Jensen says.

Jensen says the program serves to identify students with mental health needs, address gaps between inpatient and outpatient services, and remove barriers that impact mental health. He says it also focuses on following up with parents and caregivers and reducing the stigma around mental illness.

Jensen says the grant expires in 2021, and the district is seeking ways to make the program financially stable past that time.

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