Milford schools

“Increase rapid access to health care”


NEW MILFORD – Students in select schools across the city now have access to professional mental and behavioral health services – at no cost to them.

Last month, student health centers opened at New Milford High School and Schaghticoke Middle School.

A behavioral health provider is on site at both schools one day a week. Services are available to any student who is in that particular school building.

“The goal is to remove barriers to accessing care, such as lack of an available provider in the community, lack of transportation, or a financial problem,” said Melanie Bonjour, program manager at the school health center. Connecticut Institute For Communities, Inc., or CIFC, which partners with the school to provide the service.

School health centers work in collaboration and in partnership with school nurses. “Nurses can identify a child who will need a higher level of care,” said New Milford School Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo.

They would then refer the child to the SBHC provider.

“If the parent has given permission, the student can be seen at the clinic. It’s not just physical; it’s also behavioral health,” DiCorpo said. “School-based health centers provide a broader level of care.”

Behavioral health services are individual, group and family counseling that cover a range of disorders – “everything you would see in a higher level of care in the community that you would seek in a private clinician’s practice. This may include an assessment for anxiety disorders, depression, academic difficulties, social isolation, concerns about suicidal ideation, risky behaviors. It could be substance abuse issues and academic challenges,” Bonjour said.

The district will also soon provide medical services at the school.

“During the summer, the district will review the facilities, the building, and make the necessary renovations to create exam rooms,” Bonjour said. “Exam rooms require a sink for washing hands and much more like the requirements of a behavioral health office facility. The district will work to make the necessary renovations so that we are compliant with the public health code and hope that we can add medical services to the service line in the new school year.

The medical services offered by the schools are similar to those provided in a private medical practice.

“We do acute chronic care,” Hello said. “So it can be anything from diagnosis to illnesses from strep throat, colds, fevers, aches and pains, stomach upsets to chronic illnesses.”

Additionally, she said physical exams are a big part of what they do, to make sure students are complying with physical exams required by schools.

The new services are all paid for through Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSR) grants.

“The ESSER grant funding has supported our ability to pay the costs associated with the work needed to meet physical space needs as well as the start-up costs of medical clinic equipment. Partner organizations use existing funding sources and charge insurance (such as Husky and private insurance). There is no co-payment for families,” DiCorpo said.

The need, the objectives

The need for services is linked to increased anxiety and social isolation among young people due to remoteness during the pandemic, Bonjour said.

“As students returned to in-person learning, we recognized the need to support the mental health and wellbeing of our students,” she said.

The clinics took nearly a year to prepare.

“The Connecticut Institute for Communities (CIFC) has been working in New Milford for nine months on expanding, introducing behavioral school-based services to the district,” Bonjour said.

Bonjour secured funding to establish school health centers in Danbury and Newtown.

The clinics are open one day a week. As staff are hired, their hours will be increased.

“Our goal is, starting next school year, to have behavioral health services and expand to add medical services in all five schools in the district,” Bonjour said.

spread the word

Clinics are beginning to see students and are slowly taking hold in the neighborhood.

Bonjour said it’s typical for a behavioral health clinician to see about seven to eight visits a day once clinics are established. If the need justifies it, group sessions are often organized to accommodate more patients.

Emphasis is currently placed on the dissemination of the new services offered.

“Right now the focus is on educating faculty and the community about the service delivery model and the importance of collaboration,” DiCorpo said. “While there are students who are currently receiving services, the goal is to provide an understanding of what is available to the school community and to develop an understanding of how students will be served.”

As part of their outreach efforts, there have been community meetings of parents and meetings with guidance counselors and social workers.

“That’s our phase over the next month,” Hello said. “We are slowly building this referral system and identifying students who need it.”

Behavioral visits are based on the individual needs of that patient.

“We try to get the children in as early as possible, because the aim is not to prevent them from going to school for lack of care,” said Bonjour.

Additionally, to support academic success, every effort is made not to pull students out of their college courses, she said.

“We’re looking at their class schedules and we’re trying to pull students out of class schedules that are less academically oriented and so if they have a study hall, a lunch period, a special,” Hello said. , adding that exceptions are always made if students are in crisis.

Bonjour said she hopes to secure state funding to help expand services. and reaches out to legislative leaders in the region to learn their position on mental services in the state. She referenced the Connecticut General Assembly Replacement Bill No. 1, “An Act Concerning Childhood Mental and Physical Health Services In Schools.”

“Our long-term goal is to increase timely access to health care so students are healthy and ready to learn,” Di Corpo said.

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