Samaritan partnering with local schools for free mental health screenings of ninth graders

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Samaritan Counseling is working with Port Neches-Groves, Nederland and other Jefferson County school districts in making mental health screenings available for ninth graders in this upcoming school year.

“So many in the community seek out services if their child is diabetic or has a heart issue or concussion. They pay extra for dance or baseball or for private lessons. They also need to see the need for mental health concerns in their children and support that as well,” Robin McCutcheon, executive director of Samaritan Counseling Center of Southeast Texas, said.

Brenda Duhon, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction/Technology at PNGISD, said the screening is in addition to the district’s current services.

“We are excited Samaritan included PNGISD in their grant opportunity,” Duhon said.

Duhon said every ninth grader will have the opportunity to be screened with parent permission. She said this is strictly a screening tool and Samaritan will work with the high school counselors to provide resources to students.

Samaritan will be working from a grant through the Episcopal Health Foundation out of Houston. McCutcheon said that when applying for the funding they looked at national and state trends and things happening in the community and wanted to be proactive.

Issues such as anxiety, depression, suicide and substance abuse will be screened for and there will be training for “social determinant” which deals with concerns of housing, health and wellness, being hungry and other such needs.

The grant funding will allow for screenings of 1,000 students and so far PNGISD and NISD have given the green light to begin and other Jefferson County school districts may soon join.

The screenings will be done during the school day at no cost to the parents or the district. If a parent does not want their child to be screened, that’s OK, she said.

There’s more

But screening alone isn’t the answer. There needs to be a follow-up. McCutcheon said it is very important for Samaritan to  do an assessment and provide support.

“Not only can it save lives but it really continues to enhance the conversation,” she said. “We’ve got to talk about the health issues we have, whether it’s knee surgery or whether I need contacts because I can’t see very well. I also need to have my mental health checked up just like an eye exam or going to the dentist.”