Transition from using multiple agencies will make services more consistent across programs and sites
In a consent calendar item at an October school board meeting, the Cloverdale Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Trustees OKed a memorandum of understanding with Support Our Students (SOS) Community Counseling that both renews and strengthens its partnership with the service. Doing so, the district hopes, will allow it to offer more comprehensive mental health services to students, as well as promote more consistent mental health responses across the district’s school sites.
“We’re receiving a chunk of funding through the CARES Act that’s tied to learning loss mitigation and it has to fit certain criteria, but a big part of what we’re trying to do right now is mental health-related and stress and anxiety (related), and how to re-engage kids and families and make sure that they get the emotional support they need, and how do we respond to more serious crises,” Superintendent Betha MacClain said in an October interview with the Reveille.
She views the partnership with SOS as being an important player in achieving that. While SOS has provided counseling services to the district in the past through its Team Success program, MacClain said that the increased partnership will help all of the district’s sites maintain more consistent practices when it comes to counseling services and crisis response.
“Over the next year our plan is to transition from one provider to SOS, so that SOS is our one-stop shop for supplemental counseling support,” she said.
Right now, the district’s various counseling-related services go through different providers, which has proved challenging. This change will take away that challenge and allow the district’s “left hand and right hand are coordinated,” MacClain said.
“We find that SOS is value-added for us. They provide professional development, they’re more connected to a variety of things we’re trying to do, and they’re connected to the community,” MacClain said, referencing SOS’ executive director, Becky Ennis, who served as the executive director of the Cloverdale Senior Multipurpose Center until last year and is still involved with city emergency preparedness efforts.
“We’re trying to get a more efficient alignment of those things and that’s hard to do when you have a whole bunch of different players,” MacClain said.
As part of its partnership, SOS helped the district create its new wellness resources website, which serves as a resource center for students and parents who are looking for mental health resources, as well as financial assistance, support and community counseling. The website was introduced at a school board meeting on Nov. 18 and launched last Friday (a more in-depth article about the website is forthcoming).
“The other thing we’re working toward with SOS is making them our partner in providing education-related mental health services. Those are services provided to students with individualized education programs (IEPs) who require mental health support to access their education,” MacClain said.
When it comes to students with IEPs, SOS’ involvement will be more targeted, rather than just providing average counseling.
In a time where COVID-19 and distance learning have brought the mental wellbeing of students to the forefront of district conversations, the district is hoping that the partnership will bring them one step closer to being able to address the needs of students no matter their age or emotional or mental need.
“The wellness of a family affects the wellness of a student, so there’s a little bit of a blurry line since we’re not providing counseling to families or parents at this time, but I don’t think them as distinctly separate. If a parent is in crisis or is struggling with parenting and it’s impacting a student, we want to be able to help direct a parent to support and answer questions. What we’re trying to do is provide a spectrum of services that fits the needs of students at developmental needs of students,” MacClain said.
“We want it to become part of the fiber of what we do as a district, so that when a student is having an emergency, whether it’s a mental health emergency or some other personal emergency that doesn’t necessarily fall under the umbrella of ‘academic,’ we have a range of ways that we can provide support and intervene,” she said.
Looking at long-term goals, the district wants students to be able to know that, regardless of need, there’s a place for them to go and get assistance.
Specifically, the district is working on putting together specific resources to help students address increased levels of anxiety, how to manage stress levels and other “really practical, lifelong skill development.”
In past conversations and meetings with district trustees, SOS has proposed making its Cloverdale site open to the whole community through a counseling clinic, which would require some additional support from the district. However, concerns about opening up parts of the campus to non-students potentially during school hours halted conversations. SOS currently operates clinics on both the Windsor High School and Rancho-Cotate High School campuses. While the recently approved MOU deepens the district’s relationship with SOS, it doesn’t touch on the possibility of a community clinic.