The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) reported earlier this year that 81.56% of surveyed students in Boone County stated the nature and severity of mental health issues in district has “increased moderately or significantly over the past 10 years.”

SoBoCo Superintendent Chris Felmlee shared the presentation with the Southern Boone County School Board last week on Improving Mental Health Services Countywide: the Boone County Children’s Services Fund.

The presentation, which was created by Felmlee and Kelly Wallis Director of Boone County Community Services Department, communicates the impact and resources made available when Boone County addressed the mental health needs in the 2012 election. In that election, Proposition 1 passed, creating the Boone County Children’s Services Fund.

That vote gained some national notice:

“There is a little county in Missouri, Boone County. There, there were families struggling to get their children the mental health care they needed. Hundreds of families had been requesting counseling services for their kids, but resources weren’t there. So the folks in Boone County came together. They came up with a plan to fund children’s mental health care. They gathered signatures to get their issue on the ballot, and then they got out and voted,” said Michelle Obama this past month as she discussed the importance of voting.

The goal of the Children’s Services Fund is to improve the lives of children, youth 19 years old and less, and families in Boone County by strategically investing in the creation and maintenance of integrated systems that deliver effective and quality services for children and families in need.

Overseen by a County Commission, the fund of approximately $6.7 million/year has funded 23 organizations, The Mental Health Coalition, MU Bridge Program and Family Access Center of Excellence (FACE).

All of which abide in the statutorily eligible service area, identified by the Children’s Service Fund.

The Mental Health Coalition is a Children’s Services Funded Organization. Faculty, such as counselors, that have received the professional development training conduct universal screenings of students K-12 to target at risk situations, social, behavioral, mental, and emotional concerns.

The report said 82% of the highlighted students that receive a target intervention, after identified by the screenings, demonstrated improvement.

Karri Amelunke primary school counselor said, “We partner well with the mental health coalition.”

The MU Bridge Program provides school-based psychiatric services and nurse case management. Teachers reported that 65% of students showed a significant reduction in disruptive behaviors.

Parents reported that 71% of youth with anxiety/depression showed significant improvement within the program.

Family Access Center of Excellence, FACE, is a cross-sector implementation center aimed at providing a coordinated, transparent, and collaborative approach to improving access to quality mental health services for families with children ages 0-19. FACE provides single point of entry to services, such as case management.

The SoBoCo school district 2017 Annual Report indicated an increase of resources available to students and families, with access to Missouri University’s social workers, counselors, psychologists and doctors to assist students in need.

Supported by the fund, SoBoCo students and teachers fill out surveys three times each year to identify student concerns.

The checklist asks students to report on their relationships with peers, social skills issues, problem solving, organizational skills and how they cope when they are upset.

This data is reviewed to develop district and building goals, as well as identify the students in immediate need and give them critical assistance.

The majority of resources available are located in Columbia, by the statutorily eligible services, the Children’s Service Fund may not fund transportation.

By Carson Blake