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Holyoke schools implement program to combat student mental health issues

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released information Tuesday about the mental health crisis in bay state schools.
Updated: May. 24, 2022 at 5:00 PM EDT
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HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released information Tuesday about the mental health crisis in Bay State schools.

Holyoke Public School officials said their students have been experiencing mental health issues since the pandemic and they have already put programs into place to combat this crisis.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have focused on student’s education in schools, hoping they won’t fall back. However, now the focus has turned to student’s mental health.

DESE released statistics Tuesday regarding student’s mental health. In their 2020 school health profiles questionnaire, 93 percent of teachers said they worked to increase student’s knowledge about mental health and 83 percent said they had to ask social services staff to support students.

In Holyoke Public Schools, Western Mass News has learned they’ve seen these issues come to life in their student body.

“Sort of a hard time with transitions and getting back to the routines and expectations in the school setting, difficulties in relationships and interpersonal skills,” said Giselle Rojas, director of student support services with Holyoke Public Schools.

They have already put programs in place to help combat these issues. School officials established a Holyoke Hub. This is a group of community services, joining together with one common goal: to help students and their mental health.

“All these different agencies meet at the same time and all these different agencies have the opportunity to present to each other different situations where students or families are in need of services and those wrap around services are coordinated and provided after those meetings,” Rojas added.

DESE has proposed to implement multiple programs to help with these issues. These are encouraging districts to leverage funding to support these types of programs. They are proposing what they call “multitiered systems” for students, families, and educators that include mental health screenings for students K-12, and DESE officials want to help integrate local community services for all districts, like Holyoke did.

DESE was scheduled to discuss the mental health crisis during today’s meeting, but the conversation was moved to the next meeting’s agenda.