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New Richmond School Board tackles district mental health programming

Based on the events of the past couple weeks, New Richmond School District Administrator Patrick Olson decided to outline the district's mental health programming during the New Richmond Board of Education's Dec. 19 regular board meeting.

"First of all, I'd like to say that our thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected," Olson said. "I thought it would be a good opportunity to discuss with the board, No. 1, from a standpoint of mental health within our district, what we do and how we are trying to improve upon what we already do."

During his district administrator's report, Olson presented school board members an outline of the district's suicide prevention, mental health, social and emotional behavior support and general student support systems and programs.

"This was a list we compiled as a district my first year here. We sat down and outlined our programming in the district, from the elementary to the high school. I have to say, especially with the events of ... this fall, this has been a very trying time for our community as a whole, and I'm very proud of our staff," Olson said. "Just seeing the collaboration and the effort to help with all of the staff. I want to thank high school principal (Tom) Wissink and all of his hard work to help us get through this."

The list of programs and systems in place throughout the district spanned three pages of Olson's presentation and broke down the resources available for students and parents, what the district does to promote a positive attitude, as well as programs and systems in place at the elementary, middle and high schools.

"From a mental health standpoint, especially having been in a few other districts and seen how they do things, we do a lot," Olson said. "Our district has kind of led the charge in the area as far as mental health screening at the ninth grade level, which we have done for many years now. We did institute another screening in seventh grade this year because we know early detection is going to be the key to this societal problem."

According to Olson, the high school has had a therapist for several years now, while a therapist was added at the middle school level last year. This year, the district had plans to add a therapist at the elementary school as well, but due to hardships with the district's mental health partner, Family Means, a therapist wasn't available until recently.

"The addition of a middle school therapist has gone very well. We have had roughly 13 to 14 students who have been seen by the therapist, who wouldn't have otherwise had that opportunity," Olson said. "We do have a lot of great things going on. But we are also continuing to look into things to see what we can do better and what else we can do to make it more impactful for students."

As part of the district's next steps in trying to better serve students' mental health issues, Olson and Wissink are planning a mental health roundtable in the next month or two to discuss how the district helps students and what more it can do.

"We have had several instances where people have come forward to try and help and want to be more of a part of this conversation," Olson said. " Various businesses and organizations have come forward to ask how they could help as well, which is great to see."

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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