NEOL, MO.--- A new mental health program started this week in McDonald County schools. It's a school-based mental health program that started through the Ozark Center in Joplin. The program allows students to get one-on-one time with a mental health professional in the luxury of their own school.
"We bring licensed counselors and case managers to the school and they work on-site here, which is very exciting. It's our first project with any school system and I think it could be one of the top two or three in the state," said Vicky Meiseler, Ozark Center.
The Ozark Center is a part of Freeman Health System and provides mental health services around the Four States. The center started the program in McDonald County since residents don't have access to mental health services. Clinical Director of Ozark Center's Wills Place Melissa Smith believes having this program available during the school day will allow students to not cut back from extracurricular activities.
"It makes it even more difficult if you are wanting to access those mental health services, you might no be able to be part of a club or a group because that evening you're going to have to spend in the car trying to travel to Joplin to access those services," said Melissa Smith, Will's Place Clinical Director, Ozark Center.
The principal at Noel Elementary and Junior High says they are very proud to be partners with the Ozark Center since their school got the most referrals out of all 10 McDonald County schools.
"Our school here in Noel, there are 11 different languages spoken in this building everyday. We have students from all over the world, we have a lot of students who have a lot of tragedy in their life and we want to help them overcome it in any way we can," said Angela Brewer, Principal of Noel Elementary and Junior High.
McDonald County School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Stanton says students have more problems in this day and age. So, he believes this new program will benefit the students all around.
"If you elevate those outside concerns, I think there will be more of a focus on instruction and more of a focus for that student," said Dr. Mark Stanton, McDonald County Superintendent.
Since this program just began this week, the Ozark Center is going meet monthly to monitor the program to see how it's going. From there, they can see if there is a need for improvements or to develop another type of service to better serve the community.
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