Fairfield Schools hopes to add mental health counselors with levy

There is already plenty of talk about the new school security tax voters in five Butler County districts will decide on in November, but in Fairfield the hope is to add mental health counselors to its on-campus health clinic.

Fairfield City Schools was the first school district in Butler County to open a school-based clinic in 2016 — followed by Hamilton City Schools in 2017. Middletown City Schools will open its health center later this month.

The 10,000-student district already has one behaviorist counselor at the clinic, but Fairfield Schools officials are planning to add five mental health counselors should voters approve the proposed 1.5-mill property tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“Last school year the behaviorist at the health center saw 233 patients,” said Jeff Madden, director of student services for the schools.

“Our primary support for ongoing mental health counseling is provided by St. Joseph Orphanage a local non-profit mental health agency. They see students for a variety of reasons, but the most amount of referrals focus on ADHD, anxiety, and depression,” said Madden.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“As a district, we currently don’t have mental health professionals that are able to provide ongoing therapeutic counseling, as that is not the role of a school guidance counselor. We either refer our students in need of mental health support to St. Joseph Orphanage, who determines if they can provide support, or we refer to other private agencies,” said Madden.

“There are times, when resources cannot be put in place for our students, therefore our plan, if the levy passes, is to add at a minimum five mental health professionals that will be licensed to provide mental health counseling and will be able to work on an on-going bases with individual students on their mental health needs. They will also be able to support classroom teachers in developing individual plans to better support students in the classroom,” he said.

Billy Smith, superintendent of Fairfield Schools, said while approval of the proposed tax hike would allow the district to staff each school with an armed security guard, the mental health component of the new tax funding is also vital for the district.

“In addition to adding (armed) school resource officers, our district plans to increase the amount of mental health resources and support for our students and families,” said Smith.

“Currently, we do have partnerships with agencies that allow us to provide mental health support and services. However, not all students are eligible to receive those services. As a result, there are gaps that exist in regard to students receiving mental health support and services,” he said.

“If this levy passes, we will bring in additional resources that will allow us to close that gap. Providing these services will make a huge difference in the lives of these students, our schools, and our community,” said Smith.

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