[Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of articles of a long Grant County special meeting on April 23, 2024.]
img 7911Commissioner Edwards and other commissioners presented a Mental Health Awareness Month proclamation to recipients

img 7917A presentation by Financial Officer Linda Vasquez to Samuel Hernandez, payroll specialist.

Photos and article by Mary Alice Murphy

The Grant County Commission declared two proclamations, both at District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards's request at its special meeting on April 23, 2024.

She read the first one which proclaimed May 2024 as Mental Health Awareness Month. Commissioners approved the proclamation.

The second proclamation approved by the commissioners declared May 3, 2024 as School Lunch Hero Day.

The first presentation came from Joyce Barela who discussed the Silver Consolidated Schools District Mental Health Grant.

The school district received $6 million in a mental health grant to cover the next five years. "The purpose was to hire credentialed school-based mental health providers. This year, we hired four individuals to work with the students. We've hired two more for next year," Barela said. "And we're still looking for two more to hire for next year to bring us to eight providers. We also want to retain the counselors and social workers that are already employed with Silver School. Additional purposes are to give all students access to direct services, as well as increasing the qualified workforce in Grant County. Right now the social workers we have are limited to those students with special needs. We are also hiring interns out of Western New Mexico University to do a year internship."

She said the primary grant initiatives were to create wellness rooms on each of the campuses, again increase the number of health providers, increase access for all students and provide parent and family support.

The purpose of the wellness rooms is to allow the student to reset, refocus, self-regulate, learn to express emotions appropriately, practice self-care and return to learning.

Barela showed many cheerful photos of the various wellness rooms, including at Silver Scholars, 6th Street School, Jose Barrios Elementary. G.W. Stout Elementary, La Plata Middle School, Harrison Schmitt Elementary, Silver High School and Cliff School. She said the rooms differ based on the needs of the students. They have diffusers and low light.

She cited the 2023-2024 wellness room usage. To date the number of visits total 2521, with 639 unique visitors.

The program includes anxiety groups and grief groups. "We are teaching them strategies on how to refocus. We teach them coping skills, yoga. Lunch bunch groups help them, and we will also be doing summer programs with a licensed provider to staff the rooms."

The family supports include parent support opportunities, such as: ask a therapist, parent coaching, on demand courses and live-streamed trainings at https://parentguildance.org  in the Cook Center. "We have free parent coaching via phone or virtually. Some social workers are also available."

She noted that 217 parents had enrolled, 124 attended live training, 205 accessed the replay link, and 18 attended in person, creating a total of 417 participants.

Care solace is available 24/7/365 for students, staff and their families at https://www.caresolace.org .

Students did a connectivity survey, which measures the impact of school culture and climate, how students feel about themselves as learners, and it includes intervention for whole school, small groups and/or individuals.

The "alongside" program allows students to talk to a robot. They can have a chat with Kiwi, and it includes a mood tracker, videos, journaling, emergency resources, being able to message a school counselor and help in setting goals.

Other partner supports for the program include HMS, which is providing a counselor to implement a student group for middle school and high school students, Winborn supports Silver Scholars, WNMU provides interns, and Recovery Management Center accepts student referrals.

A SEL (social emotional learning) Day took place on March 8 and focused on kindness, including classroom sessions and promotion of random acts of kindness. If a student was caught doing a kindness they received a raffle ticket. A kindness scavenger hunt took place, as well as a mini career fair, which focused on careers in mental health. Raffles for ticket holders took place and a token of appreciation for all staff was handed out.

Barela said this year, they have been looking at the benefits. "We plan to incorporate music next year, especially in the elementary schools. Also next year, we plan some renovations to enhance the areas, provide libraries and make the rooms more inviting, with different types of chairs, and student work/study gathering spaces."

District 5 Commissioner Harry Browne comments that this was "the most positive thing I've seen."

Barely noted it was a federal program and was available for any school.

District 3 Commissioner Alicia Edwards echoed the positivity of the program.

The second presentation of the day was a certificate of appreciation presented by Finance Director Linda Vasquez to Samuel Hernandez, payroll specialist, for five years of work in the department.

The following item will open a public hearing on an ordinance providing for the administration of the county fire departments.

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