The Bound Brook School District knows that mental health is crucial to students’ emotional, social, and overall wellbeing. The district has taken a proactive, wide-reaching approach to evaluate every student and provide unparalleled services to those in need.
It started in fall 2020 when every student in the district was given a mental health survey. That’s nearly 2,000 students! Between the district’s five schools, 688 students were identified through the survey as needing counseling services, risk assessment, or other follow up.
“Every one of those students was contacted individually or met with in person to assess their needs,” said Assistant Superintendent Beth Fischer. “This was, and still is, a major undertaking, but one that we know will help students thrive socially and emotionally.”
The district has worked to create a response team of dedicated, bilingual professionals to give the identified students a safe space to share mental health concerns. This includes three licensed clinical social workers, eight school counselors, an intervention specialist, a student assistance counselor, and a guidance secretary.
Not many districts around the country have robust teams in the school buildings, and even fewer have licensed clinical social workers on staff. Bound Brook saw this as a necessity, and hired the clinicians in 2019, a year before the pandemic exacerbated the need for comprehensive mental health services in the schools.
Many students used to face barriers to receiving mental health services from external clinicians, often due to lack of insurance coverage, difficulties getting appointments, or language obstacles. Now, the district’s clinicians provide ongoing, timely consultation and support to students, as well as staff, leading to better outcomes overall. And, two out of the three clinicians speak Spanish, allowing for a stronger relationship between home and school and to students’ preferred languages.
Lastly, the district has bolstered this approach to mental health awareness by providing students in grades 5 – 12 with training on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) in partnership with HiTOPS, an organization fostering strong and healthy young people of all identities. Additional workshops focused on Signs of Suicide will be coming this spring.
Bound Brook has been ahead of the curve in prioritizing students’ social, emotional, and mental wellbeing.