Prolonged change sought for mental health programing in Lake Travis ISD

Members of Tune Into Life Teens brainstorm what changes would need to occur throughout the community and in the school setting to decrease the number of students in distress.u00a0u00a0

Members of Tune Into Life Teens brainstorm what changes would need to occur throughout the community and in the school setting to decrease the number of students in distress.u00a0u00a0

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Lake Travis ISD continues to work toward strengthening the mental health of the district’s student body by creating a three-year plan to improve and enhance counseling services and social-emotional learning curriculums for all grade levels.

One significant change recommended is the hiring of a district-level licensed clinical social worker to provide direct services to high-need students at all of the LTISD campuses. The social worker would provide individual counseling and case management for students and caregivers; provide campus support in crisis situations; and assist students, caregivers and campus staff with community resource management.

“We don’t have a lot of community resources in our district compared to some of our neighbors,” Jennifer Lyon, director of health and social-emotional learning, said. “It’s a little longer for people to get out here, so we really need to use this position to help us maximize relationships with our community because we know it takes a village to raise our children.”

Lyon wants to hire more high school counselors based on enrollment and review staffing for middle schools once new district attendance zones have been realigned.

Implementing adjustments within the high school counseling department would also be beneficial, Lyon said.

“We have amazing counselors in our district, and sometimes they’re not able to do the work they want to do, so we’ve got to make some changes,” she said. “Students are asking for these changes, and we’re listening.”

Plans include shifting caseloads to maximize services and streamlining processes for students to access counselors. Lyon said it is important counselors feel available to students, and if a young person comes into the office when a counselor is already seeing someone, a set process needs to be in place so no one falls through the cracks.

Clay Horton, a twelfth grader at Lake Travis High School, said while adding a licensed clinical social worker is a start, the district needs to do more.

“We need to pay counselors and train them to be focused on social-emotional mandates and engage students in the plan and changes,” Horton said. “Students know what is overwhelming them and are ready to take leadership in improving the district if given the opportunity.”

Kade Foster, a ninth grader at Lake Travis High School, said he thinks the three-year plan is a good idea but added it will take more than three years to execute.

“The community should learn and understand that our students are suffering and are not getting the help that they need even though the signs are obvious,” Foster said.

Both Horton and Foster are part of Tune Into Life, an organization established in November by locals who wanted to take action regarding mental health education and advocacy in Lake Travis ISD.

Given data from the district’s youth risk behavior survey and conversations with almost 100 students through TILT community meetings this year, Lake Travis ISD needs drastic changes right away, Horton said.

Lyon intends for the three-year plan to address the additional action needed.

“Knowing the staff that we have and knowing they all got into this job to make a difference for students, I believe by changing our framework, relooking at our approach and adding additional staff, we can really make a big change for our students,” she said.


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