Mental Health Counseling Coming to Barnegat Schools

Jul 24, 2019

Barnegat, NJ — Brian Latwis, Barnegat Township School District superintendent, said districts have to care not just for the students’ academic needs, but for their social and emotional needs as well. Barnegat recently created a partnership with Robin’s Nest, which recently joined with Acenda Integrated Health, to offer mental health care on an outpatient basis. Latwis said students and families will have access to the agency’s services during school hours.

Latwis said the program, set to be launched in September, will not be funded by taxpayers. Instead, parents use their health insurance benefits, enabling their children to receive clinical counseling services from licensed social workers and counselors.

“The program takes the burden off parents in finding their children help, which can be really difficult to schedule,” said Latwis. “Without this, they might have to seek counseling after school hours, which can take away from family time.”

Leah Purpuri, the district supervisor of guidance, said the service known as REACH ((Resource for Essential Access to Clinical Healthcare) will initially be available to high school and middle school students.

“After a while, we might be able to expand to the lower grades,” she said. “That may depend on how many counselors and therapists will be available.”

She said separate offices will be allocated for the clinical counseling sessions, and counseling will be conducted by licensed therapists, hired by Acenda Integrated Health.

Latwis said this increased availability to mental health counseling will benefit students, and stresses the importance of dealing with adverse childhood experiences and their long-term effects.

“The youngsters will have a chance to talk with a caring adult, which to me can make a very big difference in a child’s life,” he said.

Latwis said students with mental health issues that go unchecked can result in a significant drop in academic performance, as well as changes in their behavior and attitude.

“I feel that social media plays a major role with mental health problems in many school-aged children,” he said. “It’s a whole new digital word out there, and unfortunately, there is also a newer form of harassment in cyber bullying, which can bring an added stress.”

He said the rash of school shootings and other forms of violence in schools could also make some students feel uneasy.

“This gives us an opportunity to help a child who might not be able to get access to this service.”

— Eric Englund

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