MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ky. (EX 18) — Mental health is becoming more of a top priority for school districts as students return to school after being out from COVID. Earlier this month the Kentucky house of representatives unanimously passed a bill that will require schools to recognize mental health days as excused absences.
Anxiety, depression, anger, and a lack of social skills -- those are just a few reasons why Montgomery County schools leaders are taking new approaches to mental health.
"We can’t support our kids the way they need to be supported without our fantastic staff in our schools every day," Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Matt Thompson says.
Although kids are back in school, they continue dealing with the effects of COVID. This school year, the district has hired a Multi-Tiered Support Systems Coordinator, a new role unique to the Montgomery County school district to help teachers and students.
“They hired me to come in and be the mental health specialist for the counselors for the district just bringing in that piece that we know is so important,” says the Multi-Tiered Support Systems Coordinator, Taria Booker.
Administrators are making sure staff and teachers are aware of students' mental health and building positive relationships.
Camargo principal, Dudley Napier, says, “Our priority is to keep our kids safe at all times. That goes beyond just physically safe, that's also mentally safe as well."
District leaders even sent out this survey to measure social and emotional behavior to figure out how post-pandemic they can help students the most. Counselors believe working with kids one-on-one more consistently will give them a place to channel their emotions.
“So I believe that just being that support for them, and offering that consistency is super helpful to them,” says Camargo School Counselor, Rachel Davis.
This district is helping students stay healthy mentally first.
"You know, help them deal with the stressors so that we can help them be successful with the academics," said Dr. Thompson.
District officials say they will continue to train teachers and staff on the importance of mental health awareness.
They say, teaching kids to handle their feelings and emotions earlier – will make them better equipped to deal with issues in the future.