State leaders, educators team up to address children’s mental health

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio leaders are teaming up with educators to address children’s mental health needs.

On Tuesday, the Ohio School Board Association (OSBA) hosted a Mental Health and Social-Emotional Learning Summit at the Columbus Convention Center.

“We’re going to send a message to our students that we hear them, we see them, and we’re here for them,” said Dr. Kathy McFarland, the keynote speaker and executive officer at the OSBA. “So we’re going to work very hard to make sure our students are successful.”

Close to 1,400 educators, school counselors and psychologists, and others attended the free day-long event. Several dozen workshops provided information on specialized topics and a resource fair showcased services and organizations available to schools.

“The major needs right now are just support. When I talk to teachers, I always say we are their support system,” explained Evan Thomas, a psychology coordinator for Thomas Ewing Junior High in Lancaster City Schools.

Thomas and a colleague were attending the summit hoping to bring back new insight. He said the junior high is already focusing on trauma-informed services and partnering struggling students with teacher mentors. He hopes to improve screening so staff can better identify early warning signs.

“That way we can kind of meet the needs of the students early-on, before something major happens,” Thomas said.

Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the crowd Tuesday with a promise to renew school funding dedicated to mental health and social-emotional services.

“[We need to] focus on kids, focus on giving every Ohioan the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential,” DeWine said.

Educators said addressing mental health needs is part of tapping into students’ potential.

“How can we prepare them to be a functional member of our society? Meeting those social-emotional needs is really important,” said Thomas.

OSBA plans to continue offering resources to schools around the state. McFarland said those may include webinars, podcasts, and videos with more learning opportunities.

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