Columbia public schools takes two new mental health initiatives

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools is addressing the need for increased mental health services. 

On Monday, the Columbia Board of Education listened to updates on two major mental health initiatives. 

CPS will partner with the Boone County Schools Mental Health Coalition and SESI (Specialized Educational Services, Inc.) to provide additional resources for children with mental health and behavioral issues. 

Director of Special Services Dr. Lou Ann Tanner-Jones said the need for mental health services and support has increased in the area.

"Teachers need more professional development they need more understanding. They need more resources and ways to respond to the significant mental health needs that they see coming in the door," she said. 

Boone County Schools Mental Health Coalition is a legal coalition of six Boone County districts. Its goal is to increase mental health support to county schools. 

SESI is a private educational facility that will help supplement CPS's Center of Responsive Education, or CORE, program. 

"CORE is at capacity. CORE is struggling to work with the students that are...very difficult to educate and are presenting a lot of behavioral issues for us, so we need to reach out and respond to the student needs and our teacher needs. So we need to create another resource in our community and SESI is that resource," Tanner-Jones said. 

Boone County Schools Mental Health Coalition will start a pilot program of its services in March. Tanner-Jones said this will include setting up problem-solving teams and early identification activities.  

CPS has not yet decided which schools will participate in the pilot program.

Also at the meeting, Benton school parents asked the board to consider making Benton an autonomous school. The board has not come to any decision on that issue. 

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