Fort Frye Board of Education approves behavioral heath services

BEVERLY — The Fort Frye Local school district will provide offices in all its schools for mental and behavioral health personnel from L&P Services during the coming school year.

The board of education approved the agreement Thursday night.

L&P will provide behavioral health services to Fort Frye district children and their families at the schools. Under the agreement, Fort Frye will pay $30,000 to partly underwrite the cost, with services to the families for the most part being billed to private insurance or Medicaid.

“This is a much-needed service,” Superintendent Stephanie Starcher said. “We will have a full-time therapist on-site one day a week for each of our schools, plus an additional half-day at Beverly-Center elementary and the high school.”

Many behavioral and mental health service providers for children have seen a dramatic increase in demand over the past five years and are finding it more efficient and effective to take the service to the children rather than making families schedule appointments in locations that are sometimes difficult for economically disadvantaged families to reach.

“Our concern was that the kids who needed services weren’t able to go to agencies off-site,” Starcher said. “This way, we can connect the mental health provider with the student.”

Starcher said she has seen a steady increase in demand for such services over the past decade, and it has become especially acute in the past two or three years.

“We see families and children with issues related to poverty, drugs and alcohol, lots of adverse life experiences that interfere with the child’s ability to learn,” she said. “It sometimes affects an entire classroom.”

The state, she said, is encouraging medical networks toward this kind of project.

“Thank you for doing this,” board president Johnna Zalmanek said.

Board member Stephanie Lang has worked in emergency rooms of local hospitals for 28 years and seen dramatic changes in the community brought about by drug abuse.

“I see the results,” she said. “I’m grateful we have a go-getter as superintendent. This is an important service.”

Starcher said the administration will meet with L&P representatives next week to begin sorting out the logistics of the project.

“We will start working out the details of the schedule, the specific services, start identifying families,” she said.

Starcher said at least 20 students in each school should be able to benefit from the services. For students in crisis, such as those at risk of suicide, experiencing problems related to alcohol or substance abuse, or suffering from some other form of trauma, immediate mental health support will be available. The on-site health specialists also will offer a quicker avenue to medical providers if that need is identified, she said.

The contract is for a year, but it includes provision for a conference before the beginning of May to begin discussions about whether the contract should be extended for an additional year.