District takes hands-on approach to students' mental health

Published: Aug. 10, 2018 at 11:12 PM CDT
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Denison schools have been a part of Telehealth - a program through Children's Health that allows doctors to diagnose students via videochat - for four years.

This year, children's approached the district about adding a mental health component.

The district is the second in Texas to try out Mental Telehealth and the first to do it for middle school-aged students.

"I think it's much needed and that we should've done it before, earlier," said student Maddie Errico.

With the increase in school and mass shootings, mental health has been part of a national conversation.

"We just see it as a proactive approach and making it part of our school security plan for this coming year," said Denison Superintendent Dr. Henry Scott.

Denison schools want to remove the stigma from mental health and address it at its source. Enter mental Telehealth.

"Our program really is about casting a wide net, screening for potential behavioral health issues in a variety of different students, not just those students who may or may not have a tendency toward violence," said Jason Isham, Director of Integrated Behavioral Health at Children's Health.

Students who exhibit signs of mental or behavioral issues are identified by teachers or administrators. Then their parents are approached about treatment.

If they choose to participate, students can get the help they need by simply going to see a school counselor and dialing in to a video chat with a Children's health mental health professional in a private room.

"It can help students who might have future problems and can help teachers and other students recognize that and help them so that those problems don't turn into too big," said student Sutton Shires.

Students and parents say the program has potential to save lives.

"I'm really hoping that this program will be able to catch those red flags and then be proactive in helping things, you know, before they go too far," said parents Molly Cook.

Now, the superintendent is hoping the state will take notice and initiative to prevent school violence.

"I think the state of Texas needs to step up and they need to fund these programs. They need to be moved down to the elementary schools. We see kids that act out at very young ages now and we didn't use to. Kindergartners do. We need to move this program throughout pre-K all the way through high school," said Dr. Scott.