COLLEGE PLACE — New mental health resources and counseling are being made available to students at all three College Place schools thanks to a partnership with Blue Mountain Health Cooperative.
Students will be able to access counseling at school, as well as receive assistance in finding other services offered by area providers.
College Place Public Schools Superintendent James Fry said the program is about the well being of students during a hard time.
“This partnership, which is really in the beginning stages, allows us to target licensed therapy and counseling services to those most in need,” Fry said. “How many kids we will serve remains to be seen, but the goal is to be able to remove what has historically been obstacles to services for many kids. That’s why having this in school is essential.”
The idea all started when College Place Public Schools social worker Stacey Babcock started volunteering with BMHC this summer.
Babcock earned her master’s degree in social work from Walla Walla University in 2019 after earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Washington in 2006.
She is licensed as an associate clinical therapist. This means she can provide therapy services while working under a supervisor.
BMHC Executive Director Alayna Brinton is a licensed supervisor. Babcock is working under Brinton to earn her full licensure, which will allow her to provide these services without a supervisor. This, she said, will take about three to four years.
Over the summer, the two started discussing mental health services provided to students in schools. Brinton said Babcock expressed desire to offer College Place students services similar to those available to Walla Walla Public Schools students through that district’s partnership with The Health Center.
“She was just noting the challenges in her district of meeting the social and emotional needs of the kids there,” Brinton said. “Walla Walla has a program, but College Place did not. So we decided we would start a program with Stacey.”
Discussions began, phone calls were made, support from Fry was gained and plans for the program took off.
In-school sessions will be conducted by Babcock as a CPPS employee. She’ll also be working in her capacity as an associate clinical therapist under Brinton. She will be providing individual counseling and group sessions.
“We are going to be allowing teachers and school administration to identify students who could benefit from these in-school services,” Brinton said. “We’ll then reach out to those families, make sure everyone is on board and conduct those sessions right in school.”
Babcock, who has already began seeing a few students, said a process to identify students for the program is being developed at each school to best serve the unique needs of elementary, middle and high school students.
“We’re trying to break down barriers for students and families,” Babcock said.
In addition to the in-school counseling by Babcock, the program will also provide the district with behavior health navigation services which connects students and families with other resources available in the area.
Families and students can reach out to their teachers for assistance. Staff will help determine the best way to serve the student.
“That might look like in-school therapy,” Babcock said. “Or that may look like connecting with an outside community resource to come in.”
BMHC also has a nurse practitioner, Donna Braswell, who can provide telehealth appointments for students who may need psychiatric medication management.
Brinton said the school district provided $50,000 to get the program started.
In addition to her serving as Babcock’s supervisor while Babcock earns her full licensure, BMHC will be involved as the entity billing insurances, Brinton said.
While the program will bill Medicaid insurances for care that can be billed, that won’t be a barrier for families without insurance.
“We’ll see anyone,” Brinton said.
While Babcock is seeing students in her office at Davis Elementary School, Brinton said she hopes the school district provides a dedicated space for the program soon.
Fry confirmed this is going to happen. Six additional classrooms are being installed at Davis in the form of three portable double-classroom buildings. These should be open sometime in October.
Fry said once these are open, it will free up some space. He said the program may end up being housed in one of those rooms, or take the space vacated by a different program that moves into one of the new portable classrooms.
Brinton said the hope is that down the road, sometime after Babcock earns her full licensure, the school district will be able to run the program on its own and it over completely from BMHC.