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School board to expand mental health counseling staff

LIFE counselors The Roanoke County School Board has approved a proposal to hire five additional licensed mental health counselors as part of an overall initiative to expand the available mental health resources for the district’s middle and high schools.  This proposal is based upon a recommendation from the district’s School Safety Advisory Committee.

Currently, the district has five counselors as part of the district’s student assistance program (SAP).  Each counselor serves students in one middle school and one high school.  The SAP counselors will join the five new licensed mental health counselors to become LIFE counselors (LIFE stands for Leading Individuals and Fostering Empowerment) so that each middle and high school will have a dedicated full-time mental health counselor, in addition to the existing school counseling staff.

In addition, the board approved hiring two additional elementary school counselors so that every elementary school would have a dedicated full-time school counselor.

“The expansion of our mental health staff and the restructuring of our SAP program are part of a three-pronged preventative approach to provide mental health support for our students,” said Dr. Shawn Hughes, Associate Director of School Counseling for Roanoke County Public Schools.  “We also are launching a new positive behavior intervention support (PBIS) program to foster and encourage positive behaviors among students,” said Dr. Hughes.

“With the addition of the licensed mental health staff, we will be able to provide more one-on-one mental health counseling for students so that we can better meet the needs of our students.  Our goal is to foster relationships. We want every student to feel connected, and we want to provide opportunities for students to feel safe and secure in the school environment,” said Dr. Hughes.

“The mental health needs of our students are increasing.  We want our students to succeed academically, but to achieve that, they need to be in a good place socially and emotionally.  This expansion gives us more opportunities to work with our students on various issues such as stress management, problem solving, self-esteem and conflict management,” Dr. Hughes added.

“From the very first meeting, our School Safety Advisory Committee recognized the importance of expanding the mental health resources for our students,” said Dr. Ken Nicely, Superintendent of Roanoke County Public Schools.  “I’m pleased that we are able to expand our mental health staff so that we can provide more preventative support for our students,” Dr. Nicely said.