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Putnam Schools Seeing Need For More Mental Health Workers

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Putnam Schools Seeing Need For More Mental Health Workers

Tennessee schools are behind in providing tools for mental health in the school system.

That is according to the “America’s School Mental Health Report Card.” The study was conducted by a school mental health group comprised of 17 entities called the Hopeful Futures Campaign.

Putnam County Schools Student Services Supervisor Trey Upchurch said the district falls outside the recommended number of mental health professionals recommended by the group.

“Compared to other districts and compared to the rest of the state, we are probably very comparable,” Upchurch said. “It’s just the amount of funding it takes to drive those positions is substantial, so that’s a matter of convincing legislators.”

This coalition says school systems need one psychologist for every 500 students and one social worker for every 250. Social Emotional Wellness Coordinator Shelia Barker said Putnam has about 10-11 psychologists, 3-4 social workers and several third party counselors for students with TennCare.

“My position actually was added last year as a social emotional wellness coordinator in the fact that i can do counseling and stuff with teachers and staff which impacts students as well, but being able to try to meet the needs at all levels with staff , students and the schools,” Barker said. “We are constantly looking at that.”

Barker said while the school system has increased resources, meeting the need can still be a challenge. Barker said she has seen an increase in anxiety at all grade levels starting at pre-k.

“COVID probably increased it as far as family changes and jobs and pressures of responsibilities,” Barker said. “Increasing adult anxiety sometimes that feeds over to kids. That probably plays a role with us seeing the uptick. This is something that’s been going on even pre-COVID where we started to see some increase in just anxiety and not able to manage their emotions.”


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