ELLSWORTH, Maine — From homework to making friends to extracurricular activities, students can have a lot on their plates at once.
When it comes to mental health support in schools, the National Association of School Psychologists recommends one in-house psychologist for every 500 students. But, in Maine, the average is one school psychologist per 1,500 students.
To bridge that gap so students can focus on what matters most, Ellsworth Elementary Middle School has adopted a new pilot program with Community Health and Counseling Services (CHCS), tacking on telehealth to its already existing partnership.
"It puts a burden on families to be able to pick students up, take them [to a session,] bring them back, or even schedule after school when kids are missing activities they may be involved in," Ellsworth Elementary Middle School Principal April Clifford said. "This really partners with the school and allows them to do that here."
The grant-funded program will allow students K-8th grade students to hop onto a telehealth call anytime they feel stressed or need some additional support.
"Those students would then come out of the classroom, be able to access the clinic remotely, receive that service, and then the community health worker would transition the student back into the classroom," said CHCS Executive Director Dale Hamilton said.
The school hopes the added support will help students when in-school counseling might not be enough. According to Educate Maine, one in four middle school students in the state reported feeling sad or hopeless for two weeks or more.
"School is where students spend the majority of their days," Hamilton said. "So to be able to have those resources readily available to meet those needs, we think the outcomes will be better both in terms of the treatment needs as well as the educational needs."