Pasco School District launches free mental health services to all students

PASCO, Wash. — Students of all ages in Pasco School District (PSD) are now eligible for free mental health services. PSD says the program started earlier this week, and they’ve already seen success district-wide.

“We know how important mental health services are for students,” said Alice Amaya, Director of Student Support for PSD. “We’re really excited to be partnering with Hazel Hearts.”

Hazel Hearts is a telehealth based program that brings licensed therapists and counselors specializing in mental health services to schools nationwide.

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PSD began their partnership with Hazel Health on April 25th, and since then, 20 of their 28 schools have referred students into the program.

“The way it works is the parents can make a referral themselves because we have that accessible,” said Mira Gobel, Assistant Superintendent with PSD.  “Or a staff member sees a student who’s struggling and our counselors are our referrers, and then the counselor contacts the family, and says ‘Hey, we see this concern, are you okay with us making a referral?’ And then with the parent consent we make the referral.”

After parents consent to students speaking with Hazel Heart, parents are contacted to complete the intake process within a week. And a week after that, students will have their first appointment with a licensed mental health counselor or therapist.

“They can receive this service at their school, or they can get it at home,” Gobel said. “There are services available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. So there is flexibility.”

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Students are eligible to receive up to six mental health sessions between 30 to 60 minutes, depending on their age group.

“This is not a surgery but is more of a band-aid that because in order for students to access this with a partnership with families,” Gobel said.

“[After] doing their six sessions, they might say, ‘hey, this is going to need additional support,'” Gobel said. “And that’s when we’re able to refer them to our local services for more intensive counseling.”

Students with Pasco School District will have access to mental health services year-round — including during the summer months.

“Our goal is I think we need to normalize it. It is okay to seek help when you need it. And I think that is a change in perspective for all of us that it is okay when we have a broken arm, we go see a doctor,” Gobel said. “We want to normalize the referring and also receiving help.”

“If you’re having a friend problem when you’re in second grade, it’s okay to seek help to resolve that because that could be a barrier of you doing well in math,” Gobel said. “So I think that connection I think we’re normalizing the whole  wellness of a whole child as a community and families.”

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