New jobs shore up mental health, community services at the schools

Several new positions are being added to the Grand County School District, with the goal of increasing community engagement and helping address mental health issues at the schools.

The first position added was the community coordinator, which has been filled by Mallory Nassau. Superintendent JT Stroder said at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon on July 17 that this position was meant to address the plethora of meetings he was being invited to.

“As a community leader, I was getting tapped. I felt like I was getting invited to a meeting every night of the week … it was becoming overwhelming … If we’re planning on changing things as a community, if we’re planning on dealing with suicidal issues and substance abuse issues and depression and healthy kids’ mental health [and] physical health, then we have the biggest skin in the game as a [school] district. So why doesn’t the district set up a sustainable position that actually bridges that gap among all organizations within the community on what we’re trying to achieve,” Stroder said.

The school district secured outside funding from a donor to finance the position for at least three years, Stroder said, “to see if we could get the community leaders to sit down on a regular basis at the same table and talk about these issues that are affecting the community.”

The other positions added were school-based mental health therapists at each of the three campuses—elementary, middle and high school, Stroder said. Previously, there was one mental health therapist for the middle and high school, a position that received funds from the Moab Free Health Clinic. The last position is an academic behavior specialist for the middle school.

“[That position is] specifically focusing on the kids on that campus, putting a system in place to allow those at-risk kids to figure out why they’re struggling with whatever they’re struggling with,” Stroder said.

In addition to the new positions, Stroder said the school district established a community and school intervention (CSI) team in January that meets monthly. The team includes school district personnel, a juvenile justice services counselor, a representative from the Department of Family Services and others. The team will track at-risk students and work with them.

“Once we as a school have tapped all our resources internally, the schools can refer a student to the CSI team and it’s kind of that bridge between what we’re doing in the school … [when] we’ve done everything we know how to do as a school [and] now we need help in the community,” Stroder said.

The CSI team is currently tracking six students, Stroder said. He expects there will be a dozen students involved with the team by the end of the next school year.

ByBy Rose Egelhoff

The Times-Independent