Whitehall CSD receives funding for mental health programs

By EJ Conzola II

The Whitehall Central School District is one of 137 districts statewide that will share $5.1 million in state funding for campus-based mental health clinics, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Nov. 30.

The money is part of a $1 billion plan to expand and improve the state’s mental health system.

“In the age of aggressive social media culture, it is clear young people are facing insidious and increasingly complex challenges to their mental and emotional wellness,” Hochul said in announcing the funding. “By expanding mental health clinics in school-based settings, we can help engage young people of all ages in a familiar and stigma-free environment through conversations led by licensed experts.”

According to the governor’s announcement, the money Whitehall will receive will support two clinics – one each in the elementary school and high school.

The Fort Edward school district will also receive funding under the program.

Whitehall Superintendent Patrick Dee said the state money will be used to pay for services the district already receives through a relationship with Behavioral Health Services North that provides community mental health support in the school. The district had applied for the funding, he said.

The district has already incorporated new physical space for the services into its plans for the renovation of the space currently occupied by the district swimming pool, which has been closed for several years after being damaged in a flood.

The clinics will be staffed by mental health practitioners regularly throughout the academic week, according to the governor’s office.

“Through establishing a physical space within a school building, these clinics will be part of the school community alongside educators, allowing them to achieve optimal treatment outcomes,” according to the statement.

The clinics will help mental health professionals to identify childhood mental health needs earlier and bring in families that otherwise might not have sought mental health assistance.

“By expanding these clinics into additional schools throughout the state, we can help youth and their families identify mental health issues and access care earlier on, which ultimately lead to better health outcomes for young people,” New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan.