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Maine schools plan to expand student mental health services

The Bangor School Department and Caribou Community School both plan to expand their mental health services as students cope with school shootings and the pandemic.

BANGOR, Maine — From the pandemic to school shootings, students across the country and here in Maine have a lot on their minds. This is why some schools in the state are taking new steps to care for their students' mental health. 

Donna Neste is the executive division director who oversees Penobscot Community Health Center’s school-based health care. She said they opened a new health care clinic in Bangor High School earlier this year.

“A high priority in launching this clinic in the district was we’d be available to support [Bangor High School] in supporting students in all aspects of their health,” Neste said.

Neste told NEWS CENTER Maine that the goal of opening the clinic is to eventually provide services to all Bangor students. 

“Our plan this fall will be to start working toward that goal so we can reach students in other buildings,” she added. 

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Bangor is not alone. RSU 39 (Caribou and Stockholm) is also expanding student mental health services.

“We decided to hire a social worker in our lower grades,” RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak said. 

The social worker will work with students grades K-8 at Caribou Community School.

“One hundred percent of their work will be with students in one-on-one sessions or group classroom discussion,” Doak explained. “We’re also looking at introducing thematic units around empathy, respect, and safety.” 

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Doak said he hopes the social worker's presence will help the district address issues affecting students, such as bullying and depression.

“We also felt it would help teachers become a little more able to teach for a good part of the day to get kids back on track,” he added. 

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