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LSSD looks to expand partnership with mental health provider

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Its been a fantastic partnership for us, Grow said. Each year weve been able to expand our services.

Centerstone placed a counselor in Sam Houston Elementary for the 2010-2011 school year, where Grow said Principal Julie Beasley and Assistant Principal Julie Draper were very enthusiastic about the additional support for their students.

Centerstone Director for School-Based Services Beth Hail said the provider worked with Grow and the Coordinated School Health department to determine in which school the counselors would be placed first.

Hail said the first counselor arrived at Sam Houston part-time, working with students and families to build a caseload. She said the average caseload for their counselors is between 25 to 30 kids.

Our preference is that they are in one school full-time so they become a part of the schools community and well known, Hail said.

While Centerstone places an additional counselor in the schools, Hail said they work very closely with the existing guidance counselors and teachers in identifying students who may need more one-on-one attention.

Centerstone therapists focus on children struggling with behavioral disorders, hyperactivity, depression or other difficulties. Those are often identified by the schools teachers and counselors before notifying the Centerstone therapist.

A lot of the times we get referrals from the guidance counselors, Hail said. The smaller caseload allows them to take on longer cases than the existing guidance counselors who have to meet the needs of every student.

Grow said when the reorganization of LSSD schools prior to the 2011-2012 school year when Winfree-Bryant Middle School opened made the choice of putting a counselor in Coles Ferry Elementary that year an easy decision.

Many students who were in Sam Houston were moving to Coles Ferry, she said.

Grow indicated that both counselors in the two schools had full caseloads at this time as the school year winds down. But while the counselors are present in the schools each day, she said the services have not stopped when school dismisses for the summer.

Sometimes the counseling has been extended into the summer. Its a great benefit for our kids and their families, Grow said.

Hail pointed out previously if kids or families needed counseling services like Centerstone provides, they would have to drive to Nashville to see a therapist. By placing counselors in the local schools, Centerstone has established a local client base and a presence that allows local families to seek counseling closer to home.

This has allowed us to bring some outpatient services to this area, Hail said.

Centerstone has also partnered with school districts in Davidson and Sumner Counties neighboring Wilson as well as nine others with around 125 school-based counselors in Middle Tennessee.

The district and Centerstone renew a memorandum of understanding each year to continue the services, which they hope to expand this fall for the next school year. Hail said they plan to have counselors in Walter J. Baird Middle School and Byars-Dowdy Elementary School.

Grow pointed out Sam Houston and Coles Ferry Elementary Schools are feeder schools for WJB so placing the counselor there would allow any students currently receiving counseling from their schools Centerstone therapist to continue that service in middle school.

According to Grow, the counseling services have allowed the LSSD to meet the students needs beyond academics. She said by helping them overcome behavioral issues or any mental conditions, the students will be better equipped to learn in the classroom.

If the kids needs arent met all the way around, they cant succeed academically, Grow said.

The price tag for the Centerstone services has actually cost the school district nothing from their annual budget. Grow said they repay the provider in-kind with materials, office space and more.

For Grow, the support of the LSSD Board of Education has been the deciding factor in providing what she sees as a crucial service to their students. She said the board was very enthusiastic about entering into the agreement with Centerstone.

The support of our school board has been outstanding, they definitely see the need for this in our schools, she said. Other districts should definitely look into this.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at

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