JCPS board talks budget, pledges more money to mental health support

JCPS leaders look to increase on mental health support for students

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Leaders of Jefferson County Public Schools are making plans to provide more mental health support to students, including access to a counselor at every school.

At a budget planning meeting on Tuesday, Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio and the board of education discussed the importance of investing more money in mental health resources in next year’s budget.

“There’s a lot of research that shows one in five students throughout the United States has mental health needs, so we’ve really looked at ways we can support our students,” Pollio said. “We’ve seen success this year in building systemic supports for our students and we clearly believe that it’s a support that we want to support for our students.”

Of the district’s 150 schools, 49 currently have mental health counselors.

There likely won’t be one counselor per school, Pollio said, as some counselors would be working at more than one.

Pollio said because the district is still in the preliminary planning stages, a cost hasn’t been identified.

“These initiatives obviously cost a great deal," Pollio said. "But if we’re going to get different outcomes for our students, we’ve got to do things differently.”

Pollio said current funds would have to be re-purposed to pay for the mental health counselors.

In reviewing the 2017-18 budget, the district has been evaluating some costly programs to determine if they should continue investing in them, or use the money elsewhere.

Costing the district $2,525,826, behavior coaches were found to have had “no consistent impact on behavior outcomes at the schools they are placed.”

There are currently 34 behavior coaches. The position was added three years ago in response to an increase in suspensions, according to the district.

Pollio said some schools with behavior coaches have shown no reduction, others had an increase in suspensions.

“I’m not blaming it on any individuals," Pollio said. “What I do believe ended up happening wasn’t systemic in nature, the role wasn’t clearly defined. There was a person added in a school but in many cases, it didn’t get the outcome that we wanted.”

A final decision has not been made.

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