Roaring Fork School District reports on mental health progress

Staff work at the new Mountain Family Health Center at Glenwood Springs High School.
Chelsea Self / Post-Independent

The Glenwood Springs City Council invested $260,000 from the city’s tobacco tax fund to help fund a mental health provider for public schools that are part of the Roaring Fork School District.

“It’s very direct. It really has a huge impact in terms of reducing stigma and increasing access to mental health,” said Anna Cole, chief of Student and Family Services for the school district. “We are happy to continue working on this together with the municipality.”

Cole presented the work the district has been doing in conjunction with the Hope Fund to the City Council at the January 19 city council meeting. She requested that the city continue to allocate resources from the Tobacco Tax Fund.

“We know this work is really powerful and impactful,” Cole said. “We don’t know exactly how to get the funding together.”

She added that because the Tobacco Tax Fund was created to decrease over time, the district will not always have the ability to request funds from that source.

Cole oversees the district’s integrated health services, such as school nurses, school health centers, Mountain Family Health Center clinics and other coordinated mental health efforts, she said.

She also does grant work, oversees early childhood information centers, and many such support departments for students and families.

The partnership represents Roaring Fork schools, along with Two Rivers Community School and Yampah Mountain High School, a Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) school, she said.

“Looking at the numbers, I would venture to say that school mental health services are the largest mental health provider in the valley,” Cole said.

They provide service to over 3,000 students, including everything from social-emotional checks, intake, counseling, and many school-based mental health services that are family-oriented.

“They bring the whole family to work,” she said. “So I think we feel like it’s a really important tool and we just want to make sure you can see the impact of that funding.”

New Mountain Family Health Centers location at Glenwood High School.
Rich Allen/post-independent

While there were no stats for the council to look at since the mental health effort is still fairly new, Cole said they are currently awaiting some trend data from the Healthy Kids Colorado initiative.

“I think there’s always an interesting pendulum with mental health,” she said, referring to helping kids seek mental health help, but not pushing them to overdiagnose.

Both Cole and Councilor Ingrid Wussow expressed concern about students and youth attempting to self-diagnose, especially with some social media trends. She said the district is “ramping up” student education to a more universal education to normalize some of the emotions that students may think are a more serious diagnosis.

“At 14 years old, they have very strong emotions, that’s very normal,” Cole said. “That’s their superpower, and let’s help them normalize that and understand that, yes, you have some tough classes, you work weekends, you’re going to get stressed.”

The district is also working on training with partners at the Hope Center to ensure they don’t overdiagnose.

“We have a training that we are currently working on with partners at the Hope Center to help our teachers build better skills to help normalize some cases and also better understand what we can normalize and confirm and go, yes, that is really sad and that’s perfectly normal,” Cole said.

She also said they are teaching more conflict management classes in elementary school. Cole said the district is currently on the verge of issuing a new recommendation to adopt a curriculum around comprehensive health education with the updated Colorado State Standards for health re-established in 2020.

The Colorado State Standards added social-emotional mental health and relationship education, which it called fantastic. The district also has something they call Second Step in kindergarten through sixth grade and kindergartens.

“Everything from anger management, to friendships, to setting boundaries, to really raising kids’ social-emotional awareness,” Cole said. “So that’s really our core curriculum that we’re trying to build.”

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at [email protected] or 970-384-9131.

Roaring Fork School District reports on mental health progress

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