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C-PP looks to 'take the lead' on mental health issues
The Steuben Courier Advocate - 12/12/2017
THE ISSUE | The Corning-Painted Post School District is taking steps toward a more coordinated, hands-on approach to the mental health-related issues they see every day in their halls and classrooms.
THE IMPACT | District's efforts range from training for faculty and staff to seminars for parents to the creation of a leadership committee that encompasses a range of stakeholders in the district.
[*Editor's note: The second of a two-part look at The Corning-Painted Post School District's plan to step up its response to mental health issues in the district.]
By James Postjpost@the-leader.com
Corning-Painted Post School District officials are aware that a positive mental health environment requires the support of families and the community along with the school -- but they've decided to double down on their role in order to advance the process.
"We are attempting to bring mental health needs out of the shadows and for it to be safe to talk about these issues openly," said Superintendent Mike Ginalski. "We are, in essence, trying to take the lead in the C-PP community to bring these issues to the forefront in an effort to provide support to kids and families."
The effort starts with increased training for both faculty and staff.
Beyond just classroom teachers, teaching assistants, bus personnel and custodians are receiving training through the Family Service Society on how to spot warning signs and how to talk to students about those issues.
"This is where the relationship comes in," Ginalski said. "Meaning that relationship with that one individual who a student confides in, the relationship with a family who has the confidence to trust the school with personal information and the ability of our staff to see behaviors which may indicate that there are issues."
"The reality is that we have built a culture where we speak openly regarding the fact that every single person plays a role with students and in my own experience, some of our most important people have been classroom teachers, teaching assistants and bus personnel," he added. "Kids connect with people on different levels for different reasons and I recognize that anyone in the district, regardless of role can be a resource for a student."
The key person conducting the training for the district has been Renae Carapella-Johnson, LMHC, NCC, of Family Service Society.
"Suicide Safety for Teachers is one of a series of school-based suicide prevention offerings of the Suicide Prevention Center of New York (SPCNY) funded through the New York State Office of Mental Health," Carapella-Johnson told The Leader. "The training content has been chosen carefully to reflect the current knowledge in the field of youth suicide prevention from the perspective of school personnel."
Elements of the training include: Reviewing the importance of suicide prevention; describing characteristics of at-risk students; outlining educators' limited but critical role; clarifying building referral procedures; and identifying school and community resources that are available to students.
"The training is presented in-person to teachers and other ancillary staff (teaching assistants, bus drivers, custodians, etc.)," Carapella-Johnson said. "To date, over 200 staff at the Corning-Painted Post School District have received the training with several more trainings scheduled throughout the months of December and January."
The district has also been increasing the opportunities for parents to learn about these issues.
"We have already had a training for high school parents back in September relative to suicide prevention provided by Family Services," Ginalski said. "The high school and middle school went through a training last month on the development of suicide prevention plans through the New York State Suicide Prevention Center. Middle School parents will receive the same training as high school parents later this month."
There are also more informal presentations being offered in the district.
"We had a national speaker in last week by the name of Mike Veny who spoke about the need to talk openly about mental health," Ginalski said. "Since last week, I have heard directly from two different families seeking help for one reason or another. This is just the latest example. We are hearing more from parents, kids are reporting more and our staff is definitely more aggressive in reporting things they are seeing."
The district has also formed a committee, the Student Mental Health Action Team, to provide direction and leadership on these issues.
"This is a committee of 58 people with every collective bargaining unit represented," Ginalski said. "I had more than 300 people ask to be part of this committee so this demonstrates that the issue is really resonating with our staff. We are well-represented with administrators, school counselors, social workers, psychologists, board members and various members of our support staff and parents. We also have representation from All Saints, Clinical Associates, Care First and Family Services."
He recognizes that a 58-person committee might seem unwieldy at first glance.
"The committee is large initially because they will break into subcommittees as we dig deeper into the issues and potential work," Ginalski said. "Once we have the goal statements written, we'll regroup to a more manageable number, probably no larger than 25."
But that's not the end of the process.
"The second phase of this is to develop a committee made up of students to work alongside this committee," Ginalski said. "I believe students are an underutilized resource and they can be great help to the decision makers going forward. Who knows better what students are dealing with than students? I plan on putting kids to work in this area as well. Kids learn best from other kids and I plan on leveraging that going forward."
Carapella-Johnson said the community should be aware of the following resources as well:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org
Suicide Prevention Center of New York: www.preventsuicideny.org
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide: www.sptsusa.org
Steuben County Community Mental Health Center: www.steubencony.org Main: 607-664-2255 Crisis Line: 607-937-7800 after hours
Family Service Society: www.familyservicesociety.org