West Lafayette school district explains hiring of licensed mental health therapist for students – WTHR

West Lafayette school district explains hiring of licensed mental health therapist for students – WTHR

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind — A local school district is hiring a full-time, licensed mental health therapist for students who would otherwise wait weeks or months for help.
“The waitlists (in the community) are 12, 16, 20 weeks long,” said Courtney Murtaugh, West Lafayette Intermediate School counselor. “So if there’s a crisis and a family needs immediate help, that’s just probably not going to happen.”
So the district decided to create the new position to bring help in-house.
“As a corporation, we’re all on board with taking care of the more basic needs before we can get to academics,” said Murtaugh, who explained that she’s seen an influx of students with depression and anxiety who are not wanting to come to school, which is affecting attendance and grades.
Children’s mental health advocates began sounding the alarm during the pandemic about a “national emergency” of childhood mental health challenges and a lack of resources.
This week, a report from the Indiana Youth Institute showed more than half of children with a mental health condition didn’t receive treatment in 2019 and 2020.
Earlier this year, 13News heard from parents who were having to wait weeks or months for their children to see a mental health therapist.
RELATED: A mental health crisis plagues Indiana children with many attempting suicide
Murtaugh said in-school therapy will only be done with parental consent, and it’s not meant to be a long-term solution.
“It will be a short-term solution for the students who are on waitlists in the community,” Murtaugh said.
Murtaugh said administrators are hoping the benefits of the job — including a school year calendar — will help attract candidates.
The position is funded through a three-year grant. Murtaugh said she hopes there will be enough community buy-in to eventually make the position permanent.
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