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Newport Schools Launch New Mental Health Service for Students, Parents

Newport Independent Schools launched a new mental health service program designed to assist students and their parents.

The Parent Empowerment Program provides support to parents of students who receive counseling and therapy services through the school district. It aims to offer parents opportunities for them to meet and work directly with the therapist that supports their child.

The Newport Board of Education supported Superintendent Tony Watts as he assembled resources, hired staff, and developed the structure needed for students to receive therapy at the school they attend.  

“Schools and parents are best served if everyone is on the same team,” said Newport School Psychologist Elizabeth Dalzell. “The Newport schools are working to foster strong relationships between the district and the community it serves. Students are a school’s most precious commodity, and we all recognized that it takes a village to adequately attend to and raise our children to be productive adults.” 

“Mental health is vital in a student’s success, especially today,” said District Mental Health Clinician Tabetha Marsh. “Parents and guardians play a crucial role in the physical and emotional development of their children, and it is important that these individuals also are involved with their child's mental health treatment”. 

“Children's whose parents are engaged in their treatment have a higher commitment and are more likely to complete treatment,” Marsh said. “It is vital for parents and guardians to have support and realize they are not alone. The goal is to serve the students and their parents to make them more successful.”  

The district reached out to parents to make them aware of PEP. Through the program, mental health clinicians will meet with students’ parents or guardians four times a year to provide them with resources and effective support. 

Parents will complete activities with the district’s mental health team, which will also send home activities and exercises that help foster family engagement. 

“Parents are experts on their children,” said mental health clinician Jacquelyn Scruggs. “We really appreciate and value their advice, which helps us best meet the mental health needs of their student.  It is through this partnership that we come together and greatly support, encourage, uplift, and counsel children. Additionally, we want our parents to know that we not only provide therapeutic services to their children but are also sounding boards and support for their whole family.” 

Lisa Swanson, director of Exceptional Children, said the addition of the PEP to this year’s programming was inspired by a U.S. Department of Education Resource, Support Child and Student Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Mental Health Needs.

“Many children and students struggle with mental health challenges that impact their full access to and participation in learning, and these challenges are often misunderstood and can lead to behaviors that are inconsistent with school or program expectations,” according to the program’s executive summary. “The COVID-19 global pandemic intensified these challenges, accelerating the need to provide school-based mental health support and leverage our accumulated knowledge about how to provide nurturing educational environments to meet the needs of our nation’s youth.” 

While PEP was not started because of COVID, the mental health toll the pandemic has taken on many students, parents, guardians and families has made the program timely, necessary and welcome.  

“The coronavirus pandemic added much anxiety and isolation to people’s lives,” Scruggs said. “While we’ve had to physically distance from each other, we want families to know that we are here for them and available to listen and help meet their family’s needs.” 

“It’s a great time to be a Wildcat,” said Swanson. “The Parent Engagement Program is an example of how Newport Ind. Schools is responsive to our student’s mental health needs. We are committed to our mission of partnering with families and the community to nurture, educate, and instill core values in all students to ensure they reach their fullest potential.”  

-Staff report