The Fayetteville-Manlius School District is again offering a custom program that connects F-M students with mental health support within the local community.
As part of its ongoing efforts to enhance student wellness, the district recently entered into an agreement with local mental health care provider Melissa Carman, Ph.D, LMHC. As part of the partnership, Carman will provide mental, emotional, social and behavioral health services to F-M students in grades K-12.
For several years, the district has collaborated with other mental health practitioners located within the F-M community. Since the most recent partnership was winding down due to an impending retirement, the district explored other options within the local counseling community.
“Students’ physical and mental health plays a significant role in their ability to learn and be successful,” F-M Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “Our community-based partnerships increase the depth and level of our on-site student support services provided by our school counselors, social workers and psychologists who are present in each of our school buildings.”
School counseling staff refer students in need of mental health services to Carman’s practice, which is located in the village of Manlius. If needed, the district will transport students to Carman’s office. Carman’s team will assist students and their families develop strategies and a plan that is individualized for the student.
“We have had a long-standing practice of referring students whose needs cannot be met by our district counseling staff to a highly regarded mental health provider within our community, and we are pleased to be able to continue this model with Dr. Carman,” Tice said. “We know student stress is at an all-time high, and while we have 25 highly qualified psychologists, counselors and social workers on staff, we know from past experience that having several layers of support, both inside and outside our schools, benefits our students. I remain proud of our past partnerships with other local mental health professionals and know that these efforts will be continued into the future with Dr. Carman’s office.”
District meets with county officials
On Sept. 23, F-M school leaders met with county officials to further discuss the county’s School Based Initiatives program. Because the district already provides for its students similar services to those detailed in the county’s expansion plan, the district is not at this time opting into tiers 1 and 3. The district and the county will be having further discussions about whether the district could implement those services in the future.
The district is not currently participating in the county’s Tier 1 service as it would duplicate the work that the district’s counselors, psychologists, social workers and family-school liaisons already do, which is to work with students that are experiencing social-emotional challenges and teach them to manage their emotions and use expressive language. If it had participated in this tier, the district would be expected to pay half of the program’s cost, which is estimated to be a total of $270,000 that would be split in half between the county and the school district.
The district is participating in the Tier 2 level, which includes a liaison from ACCESS – Coordinated Care Services who would be the district’s main contact for a telephone helpline. That person would be responsible for taking referrals to support students and their families when child welfare concerns are present but do not rise to the level of calling the state’s Child Protective Services. The district is not responsible for defraying the costs associated with any portion of this program.
There are a number of reasons the district is not participating in the Tier 3 level at this time, which involves hosting a New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) Licensed Outpatient Mental Health Clinic within a district school.
- The district would need to provide dedicated space that would have to meet square-footage and other OMH requirements. Due to enrollment, space within the district’s schools is limited and needed for instructional purposes.
- The clinic would not be a walk-in clinic available to any student in crisis as its providers would have a dedicated patient load as if it were based in a hospital.
- Clinic services would not be free for students and their families. The providers would bill the students’ families or their health insurance. The mental health providers would not be district employees. The district would not be involved in staff selection or hiring and would not have any supervisory rights over the individuals working within the on-campus clinic.
- Because the clinic would operate separately from the school district, patient information would be confidential and not shared with district psychologists, counselors, administrators and teachers unless authorized by parental consent.
“Mental health has long been a priority of the district and our counseling staff, and at this time, we have programs in place that serve similar functions as those the county is enacting as its expansion of its School Based Initiative program,” Tice said. “We appreciate the county’s willingness to partner with us on supporting our most vulnerable students, and we will continue to look for ways to engage with the School Based Initiatives program to enhance the programs we have in place.”