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HFI Provides Counseling to Moon School District

Help on way for bogged-down Moon Area guidance counselors

By Tory N. Parrish
Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Today’s school guidance counselors need to be able to multitask.

Moon Area’s counselors are spending more time counseling students in crises, leaving less time to devote to curriculum areas, district spokeswoman Tina Vojtko said.

The school district is responding by contracting a nonprofit social services agency, Emsworth-based Holy Family Institute, to provide in-school mental health therapy to students by the start of the 2015-16 school year.

This will free up the school district’s counselors to focus more on students’ academic needs, school officials said.

“Issues such as bullying and fights will continue to be addressed by building administrators and guidance counselors, unless the pattern of student behavior is such that outpatient mental health therapy is warranted,” said Mike Haslett, Moon Area’s director of special education.

Holy Family will set up office space at each Moon Area school building, and students’ families’ insurance companies will be billed for services provided, English said. For students who are uninsured, the cost of the sessions will be based on family income, he said.

Holy Family started providing similar services to the Quaker Valley School District in 2012 and to the Northgate School District in 2014, said Scott Schreiber, supervisor of outpatient services at Holy Family. Other school districts have inquired about implementing Holy Family’s services, he said.

Holy Family’s clinicians are trained to help students deal with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome and other issues, Schreiber said.

Counseling caseloads in Moon Area’s middle and high schools far exceed those of area school districts and of top academically performing school districts statewide, according to a recent Moon Area guidance and school counseling report.

At Moon Area High School, each of three counselors serves 395 students. By comparison, there are 256 high school students per counselor at top-performing high schools in the state and 278 students per counselor at area high schools, the report said.

The Moon Area report also showed a lack of balance between guidance services and school counseling services.

At the middle school level, for example, Moon Area counselors spend 82 percent of their time providing counseling services, which includes responding to behavioral and emotional issues, and 18 percent of their time providing guidance services, such as assisting with class scheduling, career planning, and college and scholarship applications.

“We’re looking to create more robust services to build the level of support for students to meet their aspirations,” English said.

The partnership with Holy Family will create an opportunity for students who would not have access to therapy or psychotherapy after school or on the weekends to receive those services during the school day, Haslett said.

Read the full article in the Tribune-Review here.