Wheaton school taking a stand on mental health
School district, Access Medical partner for new program
In January, the Wheaton school district and Access Medical started their conversations about bringing a mental health clinic into the school.
An agreement between the two was finalized over the summer based on referrals and parent requests.
Lance Massey, Wheaton superintendent, said the district is excited to have Access Health on campus.
“The partnership at this point is going extremely well,” he said. “It continues to be an additional service that we are able to offer to our students and their families.
“Any time that you are able to get additional services to students it is a benefit. This is also an additional resource for staff members who are trying to help our students.”
Becky Christman, Wheaton school district counselor, said the biggest benefit for something like this is that the students and their families don’t have to travel get help with mental health.
“It is free also, and I think that is very important to the program,” she said. “The students are enjoying the sessions and getting a lot out of it from what we are seeing.”
In September there were about eight students that had been seen in the program, and since then, the numbers have been pretty consistent.
“We are giving out a lot of packets about the program and are still waiting to hear back from people,” Christman said. “From the students I have spoke to, this gives them another person to open up to. Sometimes, a third party person that they don’t know helps them open up differently and gives them a different perspective on things, and I think they like that.”
At open house, there was a representative from Access in both buildings to answer questions and talk to parents.
“They handed out flyers and things like that, and that was great because that was a huge step in getting the word out,” Christman said. “Now, some of the students are coming from teacher recommendations.”
A teacher may be able to see some issues, even if the student doesn’t reach out first.
“Also, I have a conversation with the students the I see and let them know that it is an option,” she said. “I think it is a great program and a great benefit that we are offering. I am looking forward to working with Access and I think this will help us to continue to grow.”
Christman said this is a great service to not only the school but to the community, and by word of mouth, it will hopefully help more students.
“We are playing it by ear right now to see how well it develops,” she said. “It is new for us and for Access, and we are learning as we go and making adjustments as we need to.”
Christman is on campus every day school is in session and the Access counselor is on campus on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, all day.
“My office is in the high school, and we have put her office in the elementary,” she said. “The students we are seeing in the program are from throughout the campus, but they may be a little heavier on the elementary side.
“As we have more conversations in the high school, I imagine we will see more of them sign up for it.”