LifeSkills Inc. joined forces with the Bowling Green Independent School District in July to help address students’ mental health needs.

Three mental health therapists were placed in four city schools, and LifeSkills therapists have now become an integral part of the school environment.

If children need mental health therapy, it is much easier for them to get the help they need when those services are available onsite, according to Robin Gregory, clinical director of LifeSkills Children’s Services.

“This eliminates the disruption of students being checked out of school to attend an offsite therapy appointment and later returned to school, or possibly missing the rest of the school day,” Gregory said.

If teachers notice a problem, they generally bring it to the attention of a school counselor and/or a mental health therapist who will, in turn, contact the parents or guardians to schedule a meeting to discuss possible treatment options and fill out paperwork.

Everyone is flexible and parents can be scheduled to come in after hours, if it is more convenient for them, Gregory said.

“We are really trying to imbed mental health into the daily functioning of the school,” Gregory said.

In addition to working with students, therapists consult with teachers if a concern arises, sit in on faculty meetings and attend parent-teacher conferences as well as extracurricular activities and events.

“Prior to the pandemic, student mental health referrals were escalating and we were struggling to keep up with the demand for services,” Gregory said. “When COVID hit, mental health needs grew even greater as students began to experience isolation and increased anxiety. We knew we had to do something different, but not exactly sure what that would look like. So we came to the table and put our heads together to figure out what might work best. I’m extremely proud to say this partnership has been a most beneficial addition to the relationship we had already established with the Bowling Green school system. Although we are taking it slow and addressing issues and challenges as they arise, we hope to be able to expand this program to more schools in the future.”

Tanner Steelman, mental health supervisor for the Bowling Green Independent School District, said this arrangement is based on a national model of collaborative care, where people from different organizations come together to work as support teams for students and families with significant mental health issues.

“Crossing agency lines is a much more effective model of managing school and community needs. More students are able to be supported in their mental health, which, in turn, promotes school safety. We believe our partnership with LifeSkills allows us to establish the very best of care for our students,” Steelman said.

Steelman said the Bowling Green school system has an agreement with Graves Gilbert Clinic to provide medical services in the district.

“Mental health is equally as important as physical health, so the concept of partnership of care is similar,” he said. “LifeSkills has sent us some excellent people and the convenience of having mental health therapists available within our schools is a source of comfort to our school counselors, who are front line for emerging mental health needs. It is reassuring knowing they are here to collaborate with, if needed.”

– Maureen Mahaney coordinates public information for LifeSkills Inc., a nonprofit, behavioral health care corporation that plans for and serves the people of southcentral Kentucky in three main areas: mental health, addiction and developmental disabilities. Her column appears monthly.

Recommended for you