NASD explores ways to tackle mental health issues – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper
NATCHEZ — After the recent deaths of teachers and students in the Natchez Adams School District family, officials have turned their attention to mental health needs in schools.
The Natchez Adams School District is considering a partnership with Bruce Professional Counseling Service to meet the needs of teachers and students and their families. Bruce Counseling presented its plans at a school board meeting on Wednesday.
The need for such a service was evident when a pupil “very popular” among his peers died following a tragic incident in December, school officials said.
Details of the incident have not been released by authorities out of respect for the family’s privacy.
While the district still mourned the student’s death, a former Natchez student, Trevon Washington, was killed in a club shooting in Alexandria, Louisiana last month. He was 17, authorities said.
Additionally, Peter Ensminger, a teacher at Natchez Early College, affectionately known as “Mr. E”, died in February and two elementary school teachers, Tanya Jenkins Jeannice and Lillian Fort, died of unrelated illnesses last week.
The district has school counselors and social workers, but no one is authorized to diagnose and treat mental illness when medication or hospital treatment is needed.
Feelings of depression, loneliness and other mental health issues have always been a problem, but those issues have intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, school officials said.
“I think the direction that Bruce Counseling is heading in would be a boon for our students, because right now when it comes to the social and emotional well-being of our students, there is a question mark as to the way to handle it. and, most importantly, what they need,” Superintendent Fred Butcher said. “If we don’t offer anything, it’s a disservice. It’s a beginning.
Bruce Professional Counseling, located at 114 Jeff Davis Blvd. in Natchez, offered to visit schools and offer one-on-one sessions during the day to help with mental health issues. Bruce Counseling accepts Medicaid insurance to pay for the service and has discussed other ways to fund treatment for those whose insurance does not cover it.
Deputy Superintendent Zandra McDonald-Green said community members were also seeking to enter schools and speak to students and asked permission from the board to let them do so. With board approval, this group came to speak to 11th grade students at Natchez High School on Friday, “because they had been significantly impacted this school year by tragedies within our community and some outside of our community,” Green said.
“We can all say, this is what is happening and these are the concerns, but we think it is very important that we give students the opportunity to express their concerns and give their opinion on what we can do to change what is happening in our community,” she said.
The board also heard a presentation Wednesday about a “talent search” program that could be offered through a partnership between the school district and Alcorn State University.
This publicly funded program would train students in financial literacy and take them to visit college campuses for a two-week stay, introducing them to college life.
It is designed to help students from low-income families, identified by school guidance counselors, who might not otherwise consider going to college, officials said.
The school board should consider adopting a memorandum of understanding for each of these programs at its next regular meeting.