August 14, 2019

School for the Wheaton R-III School District began on Tuesday, August 13. Along with all the new faces and remodeled structures, a brand new health program will be making its debut in the school.

The program, provided by Access Family Care Medical and Dental Clinics, is a mental health program that will allow students to communicate with a licensed counselor via a live video chat system located at the school.

According to Wheaton superintendent Dr. Lance Massey, the school began talks with Access about the program previously before reaching a formal agreement in June.

“Quite a while ago, Access approached us as a school and said that they were working on a grant and would like us to pilot a program where they would provide tele-mental health therapy. So, we began that discussion, and they have since received the grant,” said Massey.

Massey went on to explain that the program will be provided by Access at no cost to the school. Access acquired grant funding specifically designed to aid rural areas in receiving improved access to mental healthcare.

“The grant is to help rural communities get better access to students that have mental health needs,” explained Massey. “We got everything finalized back in June with a memo of understanding about how all of this is going to work. We’re going to begin those services for students here in the fall.”

The program will put a licensed counselor, employed by Access, in the school occasionally to touch base with the school’s counselor about issues facing students, as well. This on-site counselor will use this time to meet with new student patients and assemble a treatment plan for students who qualify for further meetings.

“Access is going to provide us a person, a mental health counselor, that’s going to be on-site at various times during the school year,” said Massey. “There’s not a set schedule for how many days or hours a week they’re going to be here.”

According to Massey, the program will be a resource for students facing mental health issues outside of the scope of what can be handled by the school’s counselor. However, Wheaton School's counselor Becky Krissman will act as a liaison between the school and Access.

“Our person from Access will ideally be on campus every week to meet new students that are new referrals that she visits with when she is on campus,” said Massey. “If the students or the counselors decide that they need to meet with that student every week, then they will take actions to schedule time to put them in the telehealth program.”

Equipment for the video component of the program has been provided to the school and, according to Massey, is currently in the installation phase.

“I would expect sometime next week we will have all of the components of the telehealth so that we can start using it immediately, if needed,” said Massey. “I don’t completely know all the products. What has been described to me is something like an oversized monitor that has got a camera that can move with the actions of the student.”

Massey also stressed that the program will require parent permission to participate in the program, explaining that the school will not place a student in the program without parental consent.  

Massey went on to explain the district’s enthusiasm for the program, explaining his hope that the program will not only benefit the student body, but the Wheaton community as a whole.

“It’s a very new program. We’re extremely excited about it. We think that it’s going to benefit the students and the community of Wheaton as a whole," Massey said.

This new program will be available to Wheaton students at the beginning of the new school year, which is currently in session. For questions about the program or any other programs within the district, contact the school at (417) 652-3914.

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