ABOVE: United Way of Williamson County and Mercy Community Healthcare representatives visiting Fairview High School were, from left, School-based Counseling Coordinator Leiah Drew-Hightower, Team Lead/Counselor Adam Dizer, UWWC President/CEO Pam Bryant, Counselor Jessica Hyne, UWWC Executive Board Member Kristi Morrow, Counselor Holly Toensing, Mercy CEO Cindy Siler, and Principal Kurt Jones of Fairview High.// SUBMITTED
UNITED WAY OF WILLIAMSON COUNTY
Results of a three-year pilot program providing Behavioral Health services to students in the four Fairview schools have been released, with positive results.
United Way of Williamson County (UWWC) and Mercy Community Healthcare collaborated with Williamson County Schools to provide school-based behavioral and emotional counseling for youth, particularly in more rural areas of the county. The Fairview program is unique in that the schools were established as permanent service sites, so they are easily accessible to students.
Behavioral or mental health is being recognized by all sectors of healthcare as a leading cause of reduced academic time and success in our schools. Children and adolescents are dealing with identity crises, moral conflicts, broken families, pressures to conform and many other elements that combined lead to great struggles in their lives.
Program pre-participation testing with students and their parents showed an average score of 28 (28 and higher indicates psychosocial impairment).
After receiving counseling or intervention, student’s scores decreased to an average of 20 and they had significant reduction in symptoms such as trouble sleeping, worrying a lot, sadness, disinterest in school, getting hurt often, among others. They’re demonstrating improvement in behaviors that lead to better attendance and academics.
“Having school-based counseling at Fairview High School has been a game changer for our students, families, and our community,” said Fairview High School Principal Kurt Jones. “The opportunity to receive non-traditional services has allowed our stakeholders to collaborate effectively and efficiently to ensure the greatest outcomes for our students. We appreciate the United Way and Mercy for their continued support and look forward to continuing our partnership.”
The pilot program was initiated when United Way’s Community Needs Assessment, conducted in 2014 by Middle Tennessee State University with Williamson County government and the City of Franklin, revealed Mental Health service provision as a top 3 need among community citizens. Principals in the Fairview schools had also identified a strong need for counseling services at every grade level.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in five youth struggles with a mental health related problem during their school years.
“Unfortunately, more than 50% of students do not receive the services they need to address these issues,” said Jonathan Boye, Chief Behavioral Health Officer for Mercy Community Healthcare. “Two of the main barriers to receiving treatment are transportation and the parent’s ability to take time off work to get their child to an appointment with a mental health professional.”
With United Way’s help, Mercy’s school-based counseling program has removed these barriers.
“Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness; it encompasses social, emotional, and behavioral health and the ability to show resilience and cope with life’s challenges,” Boye said.
Therapists are treating individual students struggling with anxiety or depression, authority issues, anger management issues and ADHD. They are also providing crisis interventions, teacher consultations and there is integration with Primary Care when needed.
Mercy’s Behavioral Health Program has now expanded into additional schools in Williamson County as well as adding schools in Marshall County.
“The impact of this program has been life changing for many students and their families,” said Pam Bryant, UWWC President and CEO. “We’re thankful to see these students improve so they can be fully present to learn, be successful and have the skills needed to navigate life.”
About Mercy Community Healthcare
Mercy Community Healthcare has a faith-based mission of providing a continuum of care to everyone – adults, children, insured and uninsured, throughout Middle Tennessee. To find out more, visit MercyTN.org.
United Way of Williamson County brings together people, companies, and organizations from across the local community to identify and support solutions to the most critical issues. To find out more, visit uwwc.org or call 615-771-2312.