Students receive mental health care

Published 12:03 am Friday, December 21, 2012

South Central Alabama Mental Health is working with schools in its multi-county service area to provide early mental health intervention in hopes of avoiding horrors like the one that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday.

Diane Baugher, director of South Central Alabama Mental Health, said the agency has contracted with school systems in Andalusia, Opp, Covington County and Coffee County to send a therapist to the school to provide counseling at least one day a week. In some places, she said, the need is for someone on site three days a week, and at one school, it has become a full time job.

School counselors make the referrals to the mental health counselor and then work with parents to secure permission for students to work with a therapist.

Most of the referrals are a result of behavioral issues, Baugher said. South Central Mental Health files paperwork to be reimbursed by insurance for the care. In every case, she said, the mental health agency and the school system has been able to work out providing care for students in need.

While therapists have worked with schools for a long time, Baugher said, the arrangement is more formalized this year. Each school provides the therapist with space and with access to a phone and Wi-Fi.

“Our records are all electronic, so they are able to do their notes while at the school and attach them to the electronic files,” she said.

The agency’s services to children has greatly increased over the past three years.

In fiscal year 2009, the agency delivered 3,396 services to 545 children. In 2012, the agency delivered 12,038 services to 880 children. The agency’s service area includes Covington, Coffee, Crenshaw and Butler counties.

The agency also provides intensive, in-home interventions for severely emotionally disturbed children. Following the 12-week program, the child is transferred into an outpatient program to ensure continuation of care.