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Partnership with Mercy Healthcare enhances mental health services for FSSD students

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Partnership with Mercy Healthcare enhances mental health services for FSSD students

(Right) Lee Kirkpatrick, student support services supervisor, introduces therapists from Mercy Community Healthcare, Dani Keenom and Sloan Mankin, who are partnering with the school district to bring more intensive mental health services to children. 

A partnership with Mercy Community Healthcare is helping to enhance mental health services for hundreds of children throughout Franklin Special School District.

Over the past two years, therapists from Mercy have delivered on-campus mental health services to over 600 children at two school campuses. The partnership recently expanded to serve the five remaining campuses in the school district. And in just the first two months, therapists have already served 89 students collectively between the five schools, recently added to the partnership.

Lee Kirkpatrick, FSSD Student Support Services supervisor, delivered a presentation before the Franklin Special School District Board of Education Monday, outlining the accomplishments since the partnership began in 2017.

“This is the difference we are making,” Kirkpatrick said, referring to the number of students served since 2017.

Kirkpatrick also introduced a few therapists from Mercy Community Healthcare, who counsel children in FSSD experiencing distress such as a divorce, food insecurity, the incarceration of a parent or alcoholism in the family, just to name a few.

“The partnership and the professionals who are before you, they are making a difference in the lives of children and that is what we are about – teaching and learning for all – and removing barriers for students,” Kirkpatrick said.

The quest to enhance mental health services for children is an integral part of the FSSD school board’s five-year strategic plan, “Reach 2024.”

One of the four goals outlined in Reach 2024 addresses “student well-being” as follows:

“By 2024, the FSSD will increase support for students’ mental, emotional and behavioral health, which will be evidenced by annual reviews of each strategy to determine change, expansion and documentation of support.”

The board also dedicated $50,000 to the partnership with Mercy to help provide therapists to cover all eight schools across the district.

Therapists at Mercy are Licensed Professional Counselors and/or certified in family, play therapy or child therapy, for example. Children are referred to receive services primarily by the school counselor.

Meeting social and emotional needs 

The partnership focuses on providing on-campus counseling services to identified students who have intensive counseling needs. The goal of the partnership is to make mental health counseling easily accessible to students, minimize barriers to students receiving services and to positively affect their school experience.

“We ask, what traumatic experiences and toxic stress has a student experienced, and how do we intervene on behalf of those students and set them up for success,” Kirkpartrick said.

“Early intervention is critical,” Kirkpatrick added in order to to set children on the right path toward healing, learning and fulfilling their potential.

Referrals are made through school counselors and teachers at the school.

FSSD Director of Schools David Snowden said, during a board meeting earlier this year, that the social and emotional development of children are of the utmost importance.

“No longer can we just focus on the academic aspects of students and feeding them, but also we must focus on their social and emotional needs [which is integral to their success at school],” Snowden previously said.

“Social and emotional issues can keep them from being successful in the classroom.”

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