Through their Rural West Texas Mental Health Educational Learning Partnership (HELP) grant, Region 15 Education Service Center in San Angelo, TX has partnered with Angelo State University (member of the Texas Tech University system) to recruit provisionally licensed school counselors from the M.S. in Professional School Counseling program for placement in 43 participating school districts in newly created positions. This partnership allows for reimbursement of tuition costs for participating students, in addition to the provision of quality social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum to pilot in their schools. Under the HELP grant, Region 15 ESC has also hired a Licensed Professional Counselor to serve as their mental health specialist.
To prepare for the upcoming school year, the mental health specialist virtually conducted trainings in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention; trauma-sensitive schools; and behavioral management strategies, training 150 plus participants using Zoom. Breakout rooms were used to engage participants using real-world scenarios and small group activities after each content area to break up the training day. The virtual trainings were so successful that the second round of trainings in July is almost at capacity. The mental health specialist is currently providing content on transitions back to brick-and-mortar learning, to include addressing student trauma, engagement, and staff stress. The specialist is also working closely with the local mental health authority, assisting with their virtual professional development trainings for Mental Health First Aid. The HELP grant partnership is gearing-up for blended virtual/face-to-face learning for the 2020-21 school year across all school districts and stands at the ready to support educators as they work through related challenges.