May 13 Work Session: Student Mental Health Programming

Corporation Nurse on Speaks Mental Health Programming in Huntington County
Posted on 05/22/2024
Corporation Nurse Meg Friesen

On May 13, Huntington County Community Schools hosted a public work session with one agenda item focusing on student mental health programming. The session featured a comprehensive presentation by Meg Friesen, the district's Corporation Nurse, who discussed various initiatives and interventions aimed at improving students' mental health across the district.

Friesen, who recently completed her degree as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, emphasized the importance of addressing not only the physical health of students but also their mental, emotional, and social health. She highlighted the significance of creating a safe environment that includes both physical and psychological safety, pointing out the critical role of schools in fostering such an environment.

The presentation centered around the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework, which addresses academic, behavioral, and emotional needs through tiered interventions. Friesen outlined the three tiers:

Tier I
Tier I involves universal interventions aimed at all students, including partnerships with community organizations such as Alive and Well and Youth Services Bureau to teach coping skills and suicide prevention.

Tier II
Tier II focuses on targeted support for students showing signs of distress, involving school counselors and social workers.

Tier III
Tier III includes intensive interventions for students requiring specialized psychiatric help and medication management.


Friesen shared alarming statistics, noting that 50% of middle school students report struggling with anxiety, and over 20% with depression. She advocated for treating mental health as a public health issue and integrating mental health education into daily school activities. Highlighting various proactive measures, Friesen discussed the importance of monitoring screen time, promoting nutritious diets, encouraging physical activity, and fostering positive connections through extracurricular activities.

Friesen praised Lincoln Elementary for its extensive after-school programs, which have significantly engaged students and improved the school culture. She encouraged other schools to adopt similar initiatives to provide students with more opportunities for positive interactions and personal growth.

During the session, board members raised concerns about funding for these programs. Friesen acknowledged the challenge but highlighted various funding sources, including grants, Medicaid billing, and opioid settlement funds managed by the Huntington Community Foundation. She stressed the importance of creative and diversified funding strategies to sustain and expand mental health initiatives.

Director of Elementary Education Jay Peters reiterated the district's commitment to prioritizing student mental health, emphasizing the continuous improvement model that seeks to balance resources effectively. The session concluded with a discussion on the potential benefits of reducing cell phone usage during instructional time to minimize distractions and enhance focus.

The work session underscored the district's dedication to supporting students' overall well-being and the ongoing efforts to create a safe, healthy, and conducive learning environment. The board and administrators expressed their commitment to exploring and implementing effective strategies to address the mental health needs of all students.

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