RCAS launches youth mental health program

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A school shooting in Florida has again put the national spotlight on students' mental health. But before the shooting, a partnership was in the works to help local students. Rapid City Area Schools is teaming up with Behavior Management Systems to provide mental health services as part of a pilot program.

“Anything we can do to help out schools, we know that will pay out dividends within the families and the communities we work with,” said Jeff Wahl, a clinical supervisor with Rapid City Family Pathways.

Starting in March, three counselors from Behavior Management Systems will serve students at Valley View, Canyon Lake, and South Canyon Lake Elementary Schools, as well as South Middle School.

In launching the program, RCAS hopes to create an open discussion about mental health and wellness.

“We also want to kind of get away from this stigma that students who need, you know, help for depression or maybe they're thinking of self harm, or maybe they're experiencing a lot of anxiety, that that's not weird or crazy,” said Dana Livermont, the lead school counselor for RCAS. “In fact, it's pretty normal.”

Experts also say that mental health has a big role in how kids perform and learn in school.

“Sometimes, it's easy for them to get pretty overwhelmed,” said Wahl. “And they don't necessarily have some of the same coping skills that adults do. If we can help set their trajectory on a kind of a better course, then the outcomes seem to be quite positive as they move forward in life.”

The pilot program is based off a similar program in Meade County, which staffers say has been successful. Rapid City's program is expected to begin next month.

If the RCAS program is successful, the district will look to expand.

"We just kind of want to get a cross section of, you know, different needs, and different areas of town and different size schools," Livermont said. "And then we can kind of hopefully learn from this small mini pilot and look for ways to expand and just kind of improve the whole partnership."

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