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home : features : schools & education April 29, 2016

1/8/2014 9:05:00 AM
Crisis counseling now available through county for Humboldt Unified students, staff if needed
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

At no cost to the Humboldt Unified School District, a county agency will provide up to five days of professional crisis counseling should the district ever have need for "post-vention" services.

The governing board unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Yavapai County Education Service Agency (formerly Yavapai County School District) for counseling in the aftermath of a tragic event involving students or staff members. The counseling team would be made up of licensed behavioral specialists.

HUSD governing board Vice President Carm Staker asked who YCESA was using for its contracted counseling services, and Danny Brown, director of Federal Programs and School Improvement who was presenting the MOU, did not know for sure.

Mike Saint-Amour, associate superintendent with YCESA, said many school districts have done little planning for follow-up counseling after students or staff have suffered trauma. YCESA has three licensed therapists working fulltime covering some of the smaller districts and charters. These three therapists also have training to come into schools and provide crisis counseling for students, staff and families. They would be pulled from their regular duties if needed for post-vention services, he said.

"The best example is when the Mountain Oak Charter School lost three people in a car accident," Saint-Amour said. "The team was called in and spent the better part of the week working with students, families and staff."

Services are available after any kind of trauma to the educational community, he added, including suicide, bus accident with injuries, death of a student or staff member, or health challenges such as cancer.

"Sometimes things happen and nobody knows about it," he said.

Districts and school must sign a Memorandum of Understanding with YCESA in order to obtain the counseling services. The memorandum states that the services "are intended to address the immediate emotional distress associated with critical incident; to identify and assist students who may be at risk due to the incident; and to arrange appropriate specialized services as may be needed."

If more counselors are needed than the three contracted YCESA therapists, Saint-Amour said he had people he could call upon, but he would not divulge their names or names of agencies. He said an administrator works with the team of counselors, assigned from a bank of four leaders, including Yavapai County Schools Superintendent Tim Carter.

The service is free to districts and schools. Schools that sign on with YCESA agree to provide suitable counseling space, obtain parental consent, provide clerical or administrative support which might include attending meetings with parents, and provide ancillary assistance from staff for direct involvement.

"We absorb the cost. The folks work fulltime for us - and sometime we bring in contract people. The county absorbs the cost and pays for them," Saint-Amour said.

So far, 51 schools districts and charters in Yavapai County have signed Memorandums of Agreement with YCESA. Others may not yet be aware of the service, he said.

Having an outside expert team come in and serve the school community cuts down on complaints afterwards, he said. "We have strong, qualified folks to come in and take the pressure off, and let them (teachers and staff) go about their duties."

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