How schools and communities are providing mental health support for students when schools are closed

Last Updated by Brittany Freeman on

School districts across Colorado are working to provide mental health support for their students even when their schools are closed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The Mesa County Valley School District 51 will begin remote learning for students on March 30. District officials say students and families will be able to contact school counselors about mental health concerns.

“Our counselors and mental health teams are ready to roll if and when students and families need us. We have protocols in place for almost any situation,” said Shauna Hobbs, the district’s school counselor coordinator.

Hobbs said the district’s mental health teams are also identifying students who may need support and plans to proactively begin reaching out to those students next week.  

Aurora Public Schools posted on social media last week that families can contact their school's counselors, social workers and psychologists on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting March 30. 

Jefferson County began remote learning operations on March 16, but have been on spring break the week of March 23. The district shared a number of mental health resources in an email to families last week focused on helping children cope with the changes to their routines and worries about the virus.

The district’s note also urged parents to reach out to school-based or community mental health professionals if they believe their child is struggling. 

Nonprofit pays for therapy for uninsured students at risk for suicide

The nonprofit Second Wind Fund pays for up to 12 therapy sessions for youth who are uninsured or underinsured and at risk for suicide in several counties across the state, after they receive a referral from a mental health professional.

Many of those therapy sessions are now happening remotely.

“I think everybody is trying to find their new normal and getting used to technology, teletherapy, all these different things,” said Second Wind Fund program director Kimberlee Bow. “We have worked and continue to work overtime to make sure we continue to be there to support the youth across the state of Colorado.”

Bow says the Second Wind Fund continues to hear from school counselors, social workers and psychologists who are trying to navigate the best ways to keep students safe while schools are closed.

“[They are] some of the most dedicated, passionate folks I’ve come in contact with, really trying to make sure that they are there for their students,” Bow said.

Youth must be assessed and referred by a mental health professional in order to receive services paid by the nonprofit with the program's network of providers. 

Many of the program’s referrals come from school mental health professionals. Bow said the school is still the first place parents should start to seek a referral if they are concerned about their child and seeking the program's help.  

“Many of the school districts are still there to support kiddos and are doing such a great job and are so diligent about it. But also think about reaching out to your local community mental health centers, or your doctor’s office, to see if they have a mental health professional associated with them who can potentially make a referral,” Bow said.

Safe2Tell is fully functional, calls are down

Colorado’s school safety reporting program Safe2Tell was rolled out after the attack on Columbine High School primarily to prevent school violence, but is most often used to report concerns that students may be suicidal. 

The program allows students and the community to submit safety concerns anonymously through a phone call, online or through the Safe2Tell app. 

The state says Safe2Tell is fully operational and students are encouraged to use the program even when schools are closed. As the coronavirus crisis continues, Safe2Tell has “robust continuity of business plans in place,” according to Lawrence Pacheco, spokesperson for the Colorado attorney general’s office which operates Safe2Tell. 

Official numbers won’t be available until April, but Pacheco said Safe2Tell is receiving fewer calls now that schools are closed.

“The number of tips we receive always decreases when school is out, and that certainly has been the case over the last couple of weeks,” he said. 

If you or someone you know needs mental health services, contact Colorado Crisis Services for confidential support: 844-493-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 38255.

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