- Last year, 17 schools on Cape Cod in Massachusetts embedded treatment counselors in schools to help students whose families are impacted by opioid addiction, and more than 50 schools across the state are offering the service this year, according to the Hechinger Report.
- The addiction counselors are employed by Gosnald, the largest provider of addiction services in the area, and each school pays a fee for access to counselors, who work with affected students. Individual session fees are paid for by insurance or absorbed by Gosnald.
- The counselors also work with teachers at the schools to help them learn how to deal with affected students. Many students live in foster care or are living with other family members because their parents are not able to care for them because of their addiction, are in jail, or have died as a result of opioid misuse.
The impact of opioid addiction particularly affects schools, and shows up especially in school attendance. More children are born affected by opioid addiction, which adds to the numbers of students with special needs in schools. A rapidly growing number of students are also being placed in foster care because of the ravaging effects of opioid addiction to their families. Those students often require special supports. Other children come to school traumatized by scenes of overdose, the impact of neglect or the sheer drama facing families dealing with addition.
With efforts to prevent school violence and the impact of the growing opioid addiction on students, schools are dealing with more mental health issues and trying to respond by increasing mental health services at schools. By working with state or regional mental health providers who can bill insurance companies and Medicaid programs, schools may be able to offer these at little cost to themselves by only providing a site for services. Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools in North Carolina, for example, is beginning such a partnership and community schools across the country make health and mental health services a part of their structure.
At the federal level, the Federal Commission on School Safety focused much of its discussion on providing stronger mental health supports to schools. Many states are also boosting efforts in this direction. Last week, The Louisiana Department of Education announced it is teaming up with the Department of Health to establish the Louisiana School Mental Health Support Program which will receive state support of $1.8 million each year for the next five years. School leaders who advocate for such supports in their states may find a more willing ear at this time.