As the nation deals with an opioid crisis, an increasing number of schools are hiring treatment counselors to not only work with students battling addiction, but those who have experienced trauma because of drug use by family members, NPR reports.
In October, Congress approved $50 million over five years to go toward mental health services in school districts where students are struggling with fallout from the opioid epidemic.
While programing that specifically targets students affected by the opioid crisis may be new, NPR points out that school counseling for students at risk of substance abuse has been known to lead to better attendance and school performance.
To shine a light on the issue, NPR zeroed in on programming on Cape Cod — a community that has been particularly affected by Massachusetts’ opioid crisis. The school district has hired counselors from Gosnold, the largest provider of addiction services on the cape, to provide counseling services to students.
Under the model, individual schools pay Gosnold a fee for counselors, with private insurance covering individual sessions — though Gosnold will cover them if insurance doesn't. NPR notes that 17 schools on Cape Cod had Gosnold counselors last year, and over 50 schools are using their services for students statewide this year.
In a broader sense, there's a significant need for (and benefits to be obtained from) school counselors and social workers in America’s schools beyond addressing issues related to the opioid epidemic.
Social-emotional learning's popularity has risen significantly in recent years, and in many ways it replicates some of the work that counselors aim to achieve: making sure students feel heard and understood, not just as test scores but as growing people.
What can be hard, however, is finding counselors or the funding for them. The position is often among the first cut when budgets get tight. In 2007, the American Counseling Association published a report noting that while the American School Health Association recommended the maximum student/counselor ratio be 250:1, the U.S. Department of Education had found that the actual ratio at the time was 488:1.