OCS partners with counselors to expand mental health service

Published 12:11 am Saturday, February 18, 2017

Opp City Schools this week took a more proactive step in helping with the mental health of its students.

The school board approved a contract with Cosby and Cosby Counseling and Consultation to provide mental health services to identified students in the school district.

Superintendent Michael Smithart said the counseling firm is based in Andalusia.

“Mental health issues are growing statewide,” he said. “This will provide counseling outside of the typical school counseling.”

Smithart said there will be a counselor assigned to Opp City Schools.

The counselor won’t be on campus each day, but will develop care plans based on the needs of the individual students, who are referred from the school.

Smithart said that the majority of the students would qualify for the mental health services through Medicaid, All Kids or private health insurance.

However, the board would pick-up the tab for any students who may be gap students, he said.

“That is a temporary situation,” he said. “Like lapse in insurance coverage.”

That would cost the system $88 per one-hour session or $50 per session for those lasting 30 days.

Parental permission will be obtained for students who are identified as needing counseling services.

Assistant Superintendent Emily Edgar said the system has always budgeted for paying for services such as this.

“It’s important to the academic success of our students,” she said. “A teacher doesn’t necessarily start the day off by taking roll. Sometimes, it’s comforting a student from something that happened the night before.”

A lot of the students that would utilize this service need the counseling services because of environmental problems carrying over from home.

“Could be a family member was arrested, suicide, I could go on and on,” Edgar said. “They are going through tough times and aren’t looking for medicine.”

Opp High School Principal Aaron Hightower said that it’s important to incorporate the strategies from counselors to help with students’ success.

Smithart said the middle school has the longest list of students who need these services, followed by the high school.

The counselors are licensed and work with Dr. Eyob Tessema, a psychiatrist, and Dr. Fred George, a clinical psychologist out of Enterprise.

As part of the agreement, counselors will provide a thorough biopsychosocial evaluation of each student and provide behavioral health interventions such as individual counseling, family counseling, and psychoeducation as appropriate to meet the needs of the student.

The counselor will discuss with the school counselor what interventions can be established at the school, if necessary.

Parents will receive a summary of progress routinely as will the school system.