Mentally Preparing

Community Foundation

BY BRITTANY MATTIE SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY AUG 29, 2018

As we wind into a new school year, Sarasota’s County initiates its behavioral and mental health plan in 14 of its 23 elementary schools. The Community Foundation and the Florida Center provided full-time therapists at Alta Vista and Gocio Elementary last year as a sort of test run for what the district is fully rolling out this year. With positive feedback, Sarasota County Schools plan to allocate nearly $1 million of their mental health services fund from the state to implement a specially designed program, bringing in outside specialists to areas in demand to evaluate students K-5 from a more clinical lens. With $600,000 of the spending going towards the therapists to assess students for any needs they may have or those considered “high risk”, in need of intervention; the remainder of the money will go towards substitutes for behavioral mental health training and curriculum in the classroom. Aside from the state funding, some of the positions have also been paid for by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

The district is currently contracting with providers that include the Florida Center for Early Childhood and First Step of Sarasota to provide these services in schools with high numbers of low-income students. “We are placing a contractor therapist in every single school that we select based on referrals and high risk,” says head of pupil support services Sonia Figaredo-Alberts. Title 1 district schools such as Lakeview Elementary, Philippi Elementary, Toledo Blade, Garden Elementary, Emma Booker Elementary and Brentwood are receiving full-time onsite counselors. “These therapists come in and work at designated schools until the end of the school year, so it’s the same person implementing the therapeutic intervention as part of the educational system,” Figaredo-Alberts explains. This will hopefully allow kids in need to work with a professional counselor on a regular basis and become comfortable with that individual.

And following the sweeping school security law passed by the state, new students coming into Sarasota County must now indicate whether they have been referred for mental health services in the past, whereas before, parents could choose whether to volunteer that information about their child or not. Still, “Anything suggested by the school regarding mental health care,” Figaredo-Alberts notes, “has to be approved by the students’ parents.”

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is proud to partner with SRQ Media Group to highlight stories about community impact powered by philanthropy in our region, thanks to the support of donors and our local nonprofit partners. The Community Foundation is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support, enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community.

World Mental Health Day- October 10th

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