MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Mental Health commissioner said she plans to request more money to put mental health services in more schools.
These services allow a school district to partner with a local community mental health center to put a therapist in a school.
There are 63 school systems out of 138 with school-based mental health services partnered with the department.
“They try to work around obviously the child’s schedule. Do they have a free period? Do they have a study hall,” said ADMH commissioner Lynn Beshear.
Through the program a school provides a space for a session so the student doesn’t need to miss an entire day of class, the commissioner said.
“There is a careful process that is used to identify a student who may benefit from some extra time with a licensed mental health professional,” Beshear said.
The department provides a $50,000 grant to the local mental health center to provide those services in schools.
In fiscal year 2018, about 6,400 students received school-based mental health Services. About 5,400 in that group had Medicaid for the local mental health center to bill. About 920 students had another form of insurance that didn’t cover school-based services. Part of the $50,000 grant helps cover those students.
As of May, about 5,090 students had received these services in fiscal year 2019.
Beshear said a care plan is put together after the therapist meets with a student to help resolve any issues. The department said there are many benefits to school-based mental health, including better grades, fewer disciplinary actions, and improvements in self and social awareness.
The commissioner said the department gives the local mental health center $50,000 to begin a program in a school. The money can be used for hiring a new full time mental health professional to be based in the schools. It is also used to help create a space in a school for the sessions.
“We are requesting more money this year. Depending on how much we receive, we will open additional systems,” she said.
The commissioner wouldn’t say how much she is requesting because meetings are still ongoing. The department said about 10 schools have shown interest in the SBMH Collaboration.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office said the following when asked if the governor had mental health as a priority: