During the BOC meeting on Monday, Feb. 4, representatives from the Ashe County Assessment, Support, and Counseling (ASC) Center addressed the topic of mental health and suicide prevention in the high school.
The ASC Center is an interdisciplinary school mental health partnership between Appalachian State University and Ashe County High School. The ASC Center uses counselors to address students’ mental health-related barriers to learning at no cost to the students or their families.
“It is our intention to continue serving these young people,” said Dr. Kurt Michael, the ASC Center’s project director. “Treatment is based on need, not the ability to pay for services.”
Since the ASC Center began it’s work at ACHS in the spring of 2012, the group has evaluated, treated, consulted with, or referred over 80 Ashe County students, representing at least eight percent of the student body.
“Although the evaluation of services delivered to Ashe County students this year is not yet complete, the preliminary findings from the primary outcome measure indicate that the majority of students served thus far are reporting clinically significant improvements in their symptom,” read information from the ASC Center.
“Moreover, these results are being achieved with minimal impact on instruction time,” read the information. Michael said each session only lasts about 36-40 minutes. The average number of sessions per student has been between eight session and 12 sessions.
According to Michael, out of the students that took part in individual therapy, 21 percent of students recovered, 42 percent improved, 33 percent were unchanged, and only four percent of students mental health continued to deteriorate.
Michael concluded that 63 percent of ASC Center recovered or improved by their mid-line assessment.
Michael attributed this success to an evidence-based treatment approach called cognitive behavioral therapy, which he said is nearly as effective as placing a cast on a broken bone.
Michael also explained other details about the ASC Center. He said in limited cases, a student can be referred to a mental health professional after school adjourns for the summer and after students graduate. Those decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
Also, the ASC Center helps students, along with their parents, overcome the stigma of visiting with mental health professionals. If students can see counselors directly at school, they won’t worry about being embarrised by visiting a mental health clinic.
Kim Barnes, the director of student services and federal programs for Ashe County’ school, said all of the records are confidential and the records for students that don’t seek further treatment will be shredded after they graduate.
“I hope you (the BOC) think it’s as wonderful as we do,” said Barnes about the ASC Center.
“What is happening to our families in Ashe County is excruciating,” said Barnes. “If children are dealing with matter at home, they can’t learn.”
Tera Miller, a counselor at Ashe County High School, also credited the ASC Center.
“It has been an amazing service that has saved students from bad situations. We are blessed to have this kind of service in our high school,” said Miller.
The CEO of Daymark Recovery Services Billy West shared information with the Ashe County BOC about Daymark’s programs.
Daymark is a large mental health and substance abuse provider of behavioral health and substance abuse services.
“We provide various outpatient services, 24 hour crisis services and psychiatric inpatient crisis/detox services across 28 North Carolina counties,” said West.
According to information from Daymark, the agency providse care to approximately 53,000 North Carolina citizens per year and has a staff of over 900 people, 70 of which are physicians.
The Ashe County Daymark center has 31 staff members, 26 of the 31 are Ashe County residents.
West agreed with the stigma of seeking help for mental health mentioned by representatives from the ASC Center. West said to combat that stigma, 70 percent of Daymarks services are now in the community rather than being housed in a clinic.
Other meeting highlights
- Glenda Luther requested approval for the 28th Annual Volunteer Awards Ceremony to be held at the Ashe County High School auditorium at 6:15 p.m. on April 18. The BOC approved the awards ceremony in a 5-0 vote
- Arvill Scott was appointed to the planning board in a 5-0 vote.
- The BOC approved the new rescue squad contract in a 4-1 vote with Price dissenting.