Milford Daily News - Full Article- by Christopher Gavin, Daily News Staff
MEDWAY - Students at Medway middle and high schools starting next month will have the chance to meet with mental health professionals without having to go far, thanks to a new $75,000 grant.
The change is also anticipated to significantly reduce the wait time needed for teens to receive similar services outside the district, officials say.
According to Ryan Sherman, director of wellness, the grant - awarded by the MetroWest Health Foundation through collaboration with the nonprofit Family Continuity - will jump start a program to bring two mental health counselors and one consulting, per diem psychiatrist into the schools as early as February.
The two counselors, who will be split between the middle and high schools, are set to be available to students two days a week, Sherman said.
"We're excited about it," he said Tuesday afternoon.
Sherman, who began working in the district last summer, said the decision to apply for the grant stemmed from a 2014 student survey that identified "stress, anxiety and depression" as chief health concerns facing Medway teens.
District officials made improving student mental health and wellness one of the their top goals in the three-year Strategic Plan, which was drafted and approved last spring.
Through discussions with Medway Public Schools' health professionals over the last few months, Sherman said colleagues told him that providing students with access to mental health services outside of the district was "their biggest struggle."
From the time a student decides to seek outside treatment to when he or she actually sits down with a professional could be as long as four to six months, or even longer if a student requires a psychiatrist, according to Sherman.
Under the new grant-funded program, that time will be reduced to one week, according to Superintendent Armand Pires, who said in an interview last week that the reduction is "terrific."
"This grant is a specific response to not only to what our students are reaching out (about)...but also what the community has identified as one of our top priorities," Sherman said.
The funds, which will be dispersed over two years, will also provide health education for teachers and school staff, including trauma training and other "professional development opportunities," Sherman said.
While those aspects of the program will end after two years, student access to mental health counselors will remain, according to Sherman.