MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Central district schools will contract for two new counselor positions, thanks to a $120,000 grant through Polk County.
The Mid-Valley Behavioral Care Network, a seven-county group that funds mental health and substance abuse services, will split the cost of the counselors with the Central School district.
The counselors, Polk County Mental Health therapists, will work in Monmouth Elementary School and the new Ash Creek Intermediate School. Mental health therapists currently work at Henry Hill Elementary and Talmadge Middle School.
Independence Elementary School and Central High School have their own counselors.
Using mental health employees as counselors has pros and cons compared to using teachers who rose through the ranks, said Talmadge Principal Beau Horn. "Mental health specialists are very versed in drug and alcohol and child abuse but may be weaker on the academic advising side."
Prevention is one of the main advantages of a mental health approach, said Geoff Heatherington, Polk County's mental health supervisor. Therapists have the training to work with children and families to defuse tense situations.
They also organize summer programs at schools. "We're always working on how to problem-solve," Heatherington said. "If kids are involved in a school setting, they go back to school read to learn."