School District plans Digital Town Hall to discuss new mental health initiatives

School District plans Digital Town Hall to discuss new mental health initiatives

SARASOTA (WWSB) - As quickly as the Sarasota County School District was tasked with starting its own police force, staff also had to install a new mental health plan as required in the state’s recently passed Public Safety Act.

As a result, Sarasota County is preparing to a hold a Digital Town Hall to involve the community in the conversation about growing mental health services in schools.

“We are well aware that trauma creates a lot of factors that impact a student when they’re active in school,” said Sonia Figaredo-Alberts, Executive Director of Pupil Support Services for the Sarasota County School District.

Trauma that starts at home and, if not treated, can have devastating impacts on the child and their peers.

“So we’re doing a comprehensive overall support for students and families," Figaredo-Alberts said. "This is a journey. We’re observing. We’re monitoring. We’re adjusting the services. We have a lot of agencies in our community that have stepped up and are partnering with us.”

Agencies like the Barancik Foundation, one of the District’s new partners, who’s first course of action was to partner with USF and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation to fund a mental health scan of the community.

“We’ll get all of these people together and come up with a strategy and we’ll really do something," said John Annis, senior vice president of collaboration and impact for the Barancik Foundation. "Not just a band-aid either. This will be really a systemic approach to improving the system.”

The scan is scheduled to be complete in February.

“They’re looking at it from a lot of different angles, so it’s a mental health scan, but looking at the entire environment from which that happens," said Annis. "Our primary focus is going to be between conception to the age 24.”

Funding that, plus another $350,000 to tackle the initial issues that come from the scan.

On Thursday, the Sarasota County School District is holding a Digital Town Hall to spread awareness about this and the importance of its other partnerships that enable staff to offer the services some of their students desperately need.

“What is happening with the student? What necessary services do they need in the family? Now we’re also bringing training to the schools to the students through the clubs and organizations about opportunities, if they see something, they say something and they access those supports and services in the community,” said Figaredo-Alberts.

In part, thanks to the $1 million Sarasota County School District received from the state for mental health, there are now therapists at 16 elementary schools, five middle schools and at every high school campus there’s a triage of services that include both mental and behavioral health.

The District said every campus also has at least one school guidance counselor, a social worker and psychologist.

For more information about the Digital Town Hall, click here.

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