Armand Pires, Superintendent
45 Holliston St.
Medway, MA 02053
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019
Media Contact: Benjamin Paulin
Email: [email protected]
Medway Public Schools Making Strides in Student Mental Health Wellness, Access to Care
MEDWAY — Superintendent Armand Pires is pleased to announce that Medway Public Schools is continuing to make significant strides in the areas of students’ mental health wellness and streamlining access to care and service providers.
Since coming to the district in 2016, Director of Wellness Ryan Sherman has been working to address the physical and mental health needs of students through a variety of initiatives and programs.
The Family Continuity and INTERFACE Referral Services programs give students direct access to mental health clinicians while at school and also help to provide avenues for parents to find professional service providers outside of school.
“Mental health is challenging because there can be a rush to get care during an episodic incident and usually people seek help for their kids when they need help, instead of getting help when things are quiet,” Sherman said. “Finding access and availability to mental health care for children can be a steep hill to climb for some parents in that regard. Sometimes, when a parent calls a clinician’s office, the wait times for an appointment can be days, weeks or even months. Parents are looking for help now, not a month down the road. Through these programs we have implemented we can provide students with faster access to care and an on-ramp to services in a more streamlined and effective manner and it helps to take the load off of parents.”
Family Continuity is a private, non-profit mental health and social services agency supporting Eastern and Central Massachusetts. In February 2017, Medway Public Schools received a grant to hire Family Continuity to staff part-time mental health clinicians at the high school and middle school.
The clinicians provide intake services for students in need and schedule appointments to meet with the students during the school day. They also make referrals to parents for services outside of school.
Through the success of the program, the district expanded its services in the fall by staffing clinicians at the Burke-Memorial Elementary School.
“We are proud to say that we now offer clinicians at three out of four our schools and we believe adding clinicians at the elementary school level has had a big impact on students,” Sherman said. “The earlier you can intervene with a student who is struggling with internal issues, the more likely it is that the student is going to succeed. At that age there needs to be a higher level of communication with parents and there is more follow-up work that needs to be done with parents and families than kids in middle and high school. So far we have seen great success at the Burke-Memorial school.”
Since the program was implemented 104 students have participated and received care at the three schools through Family Continuity.
In October 2017, the district hired the services of William James INTERFACE Referral Services. The service is administered by William James College in Newton. The program provides a referral helpline that parents can call to assist them with navigating the healthcare system and helps to streamline the process of finding mental health professionals and setting up appointments.
“Before hiring INTERFACE, we found that parents and school counselors were spending a tremendous amount of time getting help for their kids,” Sherman said. “The healthcare and insurance system can be complex for parents to navigate when they have so many other balls to juggle. This hotline is a one-stop shop service where they do the legwork for families in finding available providers and giving them options for dates and times when the parents are available to bring their children to appointments.”
The helpline is available to all residents of Medway who are dealing with mental health issues, and has been found to decrease wait times overall and increase the amount of services and care provided to those who utilize the program.
To reach the helpline, call 1-888-244-6843, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In just over a year’s time, over 80 Medway students and residents have accessed the INTERFACE referral hotline. In addition, since contracting with INTERFACE and Family Continuity, school counseling staff has gone from spending an average of 2 hours and 36 minutes per week (per counselor) coordinating outside mental health counseling services for students, to an average of 48 minutes per week.
“These two programs, along with the bevy of other initiatives Ryan has brought to the district, have been incredibly impactful in improving the overall wellness of our students and school atmosphere,” Superintendent Pires said. “Because of Ryan’s work, our school district has been better equipped to take on the challenge of providing help for students in need of mental health care.”