A task force for the Madison Metropolitan School District has recommended the school board implement a mental health screening program in Madison’s public schools.
Scott Strong, executive director of Community Partnerships, a local nonprofit that works to provide community-based resources to people with mental health problems, is a member of the task force that gave the recommendation. Strong said the screening would be used to identify if there is something impacting a student’s learning, and then contact the student’s family about the problem.
Strong said the screening would detect the signs and symptoms of mental health problems. He said it is a good idea for students at any point in their educational career, but an especially good idea for elementary school students because it would help with early intervention and identification.
“It’s an idea the task force has put forth but not yet implemented,” Strong said. “It’s a good idea on many different levels.”
Strong said students would be screened for common mental health problems that commonly impact learning such as mental depression and mood disorders. Madison schools already have social workers, nurses, guidance counselors and psychologists to support the mental health of students and the screening will add another layer of support, Strong said.
Strong said the task force has been meeting for more than a year, and an implementation planning team has been put together to meet twice a month between now and May.
Marj Passman, vice president of MMSD’s Board of Education, said mental health clinics in schools would also be implemented as part of the proposal. She said the clinics would first be brought into high schools and middle schools because that is where there is the greatest need, but she would also like to see them eventually brought into elementary schools also.
She said the mental health clinics are a good goal for the district to have, and she supported the entire screening program. She said the core of the program was to bring everyone together and identify the needs of students and find a place where they can go to have their needs met.
“It’s what our schools need right now,” Passman said. “It would fulfill a lot of needs. It’s a coming together of the community, a product that was needed, and now we have some wonderful news for the community in terms of mental health for our kids.”
Passman said a timeline for when the program is set up in Madison schools depends on financing. She added she wanted the program to begin as soon as possible, and Strong cited next semester as a possible starting point.
The program would require the school district to hire an administrator, which means the program would cost at least $60,000, Passman said. She said it would help if the district could afford the program in their next budget.
Passman said the program is a necessity because the district is overwhelmed with children who need to be treated for mental health problems. She said the district needs these resources.
“This is one of the most positive experiences — to feel these people come together and work together,” Passman said.