Are young people with mental health needs in Sarasota County being provided with adequate services? In short, not entirely. A recent study was conducted in an attempt to shine light on the issue.
The University of South Florida conducted a research study in 2018, funded by the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which took an expansive look at the scope of services available for young people ages 24 and younger. According to a story in the Herald-Tribune, they found that mental health services were generally underfunded at the statewide level, as well.
According to the report, part of the problem is that services are “crisis-oriented and deep-end focused rather than prevention oriented,” prevention-oriented meaning addressing and working towards averting issues before they occur.
The study further stated, “It is estimated that the economic cost due to untreated mental illness for children and young adults in Sarasota County is $86,179,317 per year.”
The study focused on the county as a whole—community outreach, medical services, the criminal justice system, etc. But what role do schools play? What is Pine View doing to help with this issue?
There are several programs at Pine View that work specifically towards the goal of prevention starting with students in the younger grades.
According to Elementary Guidance Counselor Kate McManus, she began offering a forum this school year educating fifth-grade students on the five love languages, using dichotomous ideas (ex. quality time versus being left out) to help students better understand those who think differently than them. Additionally, each elementary grade is spoken to by school counselors and speakers from programs like the Child Protection Center (CPC) discussing bullying, internet safety, and how to deal with difficult social situations.
Tenth to twelfth grade Guidance Counselor Lynn Halcomb said that for the older students, there are regularly held forums addressing a variety of issues. Guest speakers from several agencies have spoken and/or regularly speak at Pine View, including personnel from Safe Place and Rape Crisis (SPARC), Child Protection Center (CPC), and See Something Say Something. All freshmen attend a forum called Resiliency by Dr. Chris Cortman, co-author of the book Take Control of Your Anxiety, as a part of the Social Black Belt program.
On the treatment side of the equation, Pine View operates within a district-wide system for providing care.
School Psychologist Tim Gissel explained that schools within the jurisdiction of the Sarasota County School system share a group of 23 school psychologists among 53 campuses. In addition, 12 school social workers throughout the county serve as a bridge for students between school and home, visiting homes and assisting families in understanding insurance (in case of a need of counselors outside school), financial information, housing, food, and clothing. Social workers also refer families to mental health resources and groups/camps. These professionals are responsible for responding to 43,150 students throughout the county and helping them with behavioral and academic issues.
As the psychologists’ time is split between schools, they are typically available at a given school one or two days of the week. While it is the administration’s job to determine what services are provided to students on a case by case basis, students cannot be given help against their will–and in most cases, a student or parent will bring an issue to a school guidance counselor. Additionally, all officials adhere to a confidentially statement to protect students’ privacy.
Although the psychologists’ time is split across multiple schools, Pine View has taken direct action to try and better student health. Students receive pocket-sized pamphlets distributed each year, listing phone numbers and online resources for crisis and help lines in 13 different categories. A recent initiative also allowed the Call for Help number (211) to be placed in school bathrooms throughout the county.
Another resource for mental health in Sarasota is the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), which has several locations in the area, including Arcadia, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Northport, Sarasota and Venice. NAMI provides support for behavioral issues, crisis, unemployment and financial issues, as well as hotlines, community walk-in centers, hospitals and housing. School social workers may refer students and families to organizations like NAMI if need arises.
For more information on NAMI click here. School guidance counselors are available during school hours for any questions or concerns.
Graphic by: Sarah Catalano.