Ulster County to bolster mental health support in schools

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KINGSTON – Ulster County is allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding and Opioid Settlement funding to bolster mental health supports in schools at a time of critical need.

A resolution to fund the program was unanimously passed by the county legislature on June 21.

The program will supplement mental health supports provided in the county’s nine district schools and will act as a link between school, community and family. The program was designed in partnership with local school districts to promote overall wellness, offset the effects of trauma and bolster existing mental health resources in the schools. The Mental Health in Schools program will begin in the 2022-23 school year and work with middle school aged youth.

“We know that no one has been more impacted than our young people during the pandemic, and it will take all of us working together to ensure that they once again thrive,” County Executive Pat Ryan said.

“The past two years have taken a toll on all of us, perhaps no group more than the almost 24,000 students who attend school every and day in Ulster County and their families,” said Charles Khoury, district superintendent and CEO of Ulster BOCES. “The pandemic has shaken the somewhat predictable nature of our pre-pandemic lives and our sense of security. There has been a significant uptick in the number of students and families who need mental health, social and emotional support. The Ulster County Mental Health in Schools initiative will serve to assist the already overburdened school-based student support staff.”

Ulster County will contract with a nonprofit to operate teams of one licensed master/clinical social worker or licensed mental health counselor and one care manager to support youth, families, and schools. Teams will provide face-to-face sessions with the youth, family support sessions with the youth and their parent/caregiver, ongoing communication with school staff, linkage to community resources, and coordination with other providers including but not limited to mental health, juvenile justice, social services, primary care, etc. The program will be voluntary, and youth and parents/caregivers must provide consent to participate.