Cassia launches mental health program

BURLEY — New efforts to provide free mental health care to Cassia County students rolled out this month in four schools.

The Cassia County School District partnered with Intermountain Healthcare Cassia Regional Hospital and Blomquist-Hale Employee Assistance to provide mental health services to K-12 students in a year-long pilot program called CONNECT.

“We aren’t putting metal detectors in our schools or adding extra school resource officers,” said district spokeswomen Debbie Critchfield. “We are addressing the child on the emotional side.”

The district is piloting four schools:

  • Burley Junior High
  • Mountain View Elementary
  • Oakley High
  • Raft River High

Students who attend these schools can receive free face-to-face counseling in:

  • Stress, anxiety, depression
  • Grief of loss
  • Personal and emotional challenges
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Substance abuse or other addictions
  • Self esteem
  • Peer relationships
  • Bullying

The counseling services are available at no cost and are confidential.

This is how it works — a student or parent has to notify a school counselor, principal or teacher that they would like to receive services. The student or parents will then receive a phone number to set up an in-person appointment with a licensed clinician.

“We have eliminated all financial barriers and obstacles of getting help,” Critchfield said.

The program cost $25,000 to start, which is funded through private donations, an Intermountain Healthcare grant, and safe and drug free schools’ money. Since launching on Oct. 1, five students have used the services.

“This is a program we want students to use,” Critchfield said.

Last year, the district reported 36 bullying incidents out of 5,493 students.

“This program doesn’t specifically speak to bullying or creating a safer school, but it is the preventative measure we are taking,” Critchfield said.

The district will collect data on how many students participate, their age and the issue. The data will be used for future planning of the program. Critchfield said the district would like to roll out the program at all the schools once the pilot ends next year, and funding is lined up.

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