news 4 days ago

Districts have mix of mental health professionals on staff

The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa. — Justin Strawser The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.

Oct. 18-- Oct. 18--Valley school districts continue to add guidance counselors, social workers and medical professionals to help manage the mental well-being of students.

Shikellamy School District Superintendent Dr. Jason Bendle said the district has eight school counselors and one social worker, as well as the professionals from the Children's Service Center, based in Wilkes-Barre.

"We have applied to explain this program through the Department of Human Services for Chief Shikellamy Elementary and Shikellamy High School," said Bendle. "We are hoping for this approval for these two additional sites."

Lisa Pfleegor, a guidance counselor at Shikellamy Middle School, and Gina Miscannon, the guidance counselor at Grace S. Beck Elementary School, said it's important for districts to provide mental health services.

"Our role is very important every day," said Pfleegor. "(In the spring), students fell into a routine of not interacting. Now we're getting them back into a routine, socializing. As a counselor, that's what we're worried about. Are you here, are you able to focus, are you able to interact without conflict?"

"This has been so stressful for families and kids," said Miscannon. "It's absolutely important in terms of mental health to help them deal with everything in the world. They've been couped up and not able to see friends. I'm glad we're finally back."

Mifflinburg Area Middle School Principal Daryl Hunsberger said the district wanted to prepare for the 2020-21 school year. They have a family child specialist, two social workers, five guidance counselors and an assistant principal with a counseling background, and also brought in personnel from the Diversified Treatment Alternative Centers to provide assistance in the first few weeks of school.

"We had extra hands on deck," said Matt Baker, family child specialist for Mifflinburg.

Hunsberger said the students have been adjusting well and he's proud of everyone involved.

"For a child to do well educationally, they have to be comfortably emotionally," said Mifflinburg middle school guidance counselor Steve Shriver. "Those two things go hand in hand. We would be remiss if we didn't address the extra stress and anxiety of COVID. It is our responsibility."

Midd-West Superintendent Rick Musselman said there are school counselors at the four district buildings.

"At the High School, we have two counselors at this time and hope to fill a vacant position in the near future," said Musselman. "We also have a prevention specialist in the district who we contract for through CMSU. We did have scheduled intensive professional development for all teachers on Trauma Informed Classrooms for last Spring but due to COVID, that training was canceled."

Milton Area Superintendent Cathy Keegan said the District employs seven guidance counselors, three social workers and two school psychologists. Additionally, each building has a Student Assistance Program (SAP) and the Board has committed to a Director of Student Services. SAP team is comprised of professionals with advanced training in mental health issues, who are also resources for the students.

Lewisburg Area School District has three social workers, according to Superintendent Jennifer A. Polinchock.

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