Mental health program helping students

A state-funded collaboration between schools and Community Mental Health Centers has saved students’ lives and helped thousands of them get the help they need to be successful, advocates said Tuesday

Kimberly Knight, with Leavenworth USD 453, said the district was able to use a school-based therapist to help students deal with mental health and social and emotional problems. She credited the program with helping a suicidal student get the help that student needed, in addition to assisting many more students.

“I am so proud of our state for taking this and giving this opportunity to our students to be more successful,” Knight said.

Emily Henderson, with Wabaunsee USD 329, said, “This program is saving lives in our schools.”

The Mental Health Intervention Program started in 2018 as a one-year pilot in nine school districts but has since grown to 32 districts.

The number of students served through this program in those districts totaled 3,009 this year. Seventy percent of students showed improved behaviors, 61 percent improved their grades and only 11 dropped out of school, officials said in a presentation to the State Board of Education.

Of the 102 students who received help from the school-based therapist in Leavenworth, all of them said they hoped the district would offer the services next year, Knight said.

Students said the services helped them feel less anxious, become calmer and better able to handle adversity.

The $9 million program has received additional funding in the upcoming budget that could expand it to 50-60 districts, officials said. But Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said that while the Legislature and Gov. Laura Kelly have supported the program, the state’s revenue problems caused by the pandemic could raise funding issues.

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