Fort Bend ISD students now have access to counseling and resource centers that are the first of their kind in the district.
During the first week of January, FBISD opened the doors to eight school-based mental health centers within the Hightower, Marshall and Willowridge high school feeder patterns using state grant money under the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA). In October, FBISD announced it was going to pilot mental health counseling and resource clinics at area campuses as part of the district’s restructured behavioral health services efforts.
The fully staffed clinics are located at the three high schools along with Lake Olympia, McAuliffe and Missouri City middle schools as well as Rosa Parks and Briargate elementary schools.
The three feeder patterns were chosen based on community crime data as well as data on school discipline and attendance rates. Officials also conducted community surveys to determine how safe kids feel at school and tracked reports of depression, suicides and suicide attempts through area social workers and school counselors around the district, according to FBISD Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness Steve Shiels.
“Those were the eight campuses that emerged districtwide, so that sort of validated our choice to use those feeder patterns,” Shiels said.
According to the district, the centers are open to all FBISD students and staff whether or not they work at or attend that specific school. All FBISD students, parents and staff who have been victims of crimes – including domestic violence, witnesses to a crime, those impacted by crime and victims of bullying – will be eligible to receive free counseling and therapeutic services from board-licensed clinicians.
The district began planning for the grant following an August 2018 meeting with former State Rep. Rick Miller that showcased such clinics in Austin, and applied for the grant this past February. FBISD received a $1.5 million grant for the endeavor from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Criminal Justice Division in October.
“We’ve always talked about having behavior specialists on the campus in order to address things in real time, because it impacts learning if we don’t have someone there to intervene,” FBISD board member Kristen Tassin said during an Oct. 21 board meeting. “I think these mental health clinics are the start of that.”
Shiels said the district is already taking another deep dive into the data in anticipation of expanding the program once the clinics have had time to settle in, though a timeline is yet to be determined. They could either expand staff and programs within the existing clinics – if it’s determined there is a greater need – or expand to other campuses.
“The board is committed to expanding this program, because they realize there are many needs outside of these three feeder patterns,” he said. “We’re looking at an expansion plan to serve the district more holistically.”