Too much of a good thing can be a good thing.
School-based behavioral health programs have been successful to such a degree at Beaty-Warren Middle School and Warren Area Elementary Center that Beacon Light Behavioral Health Systems has asked to expand the program to Youngsville Elementary/Middle School.
Director of Secondary Education Amanda Hetrick explained that this program, now entering its third academic year, has in large part replaced the Therapeutic Support Staff program, or TSS, as funding for that program has declined in recent years.
"This was a change in model or a change in thought process," Hetrick said, explaining that the individuals who staff the program are in the school all day where TSS staff might have only been with students for a pre-determined period each day.
Hetrick explained that the problem with the TSS time arrangement was that some students might struggle at different portions of the day, others may struggle in transitions from class to class or from recess or lunch. If the TSS wasn't allotted those specific times, they would be working with a student when the students did not really need the support.
In contrast, the school-based staff "function throughout the day and support students when they need the support," she added. But the service extends further, working with a student's family also helping to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between parents and the school as well as other services a student may need.
"There has been such success that they (Beacon Light) have come to us" to expand to Youngsville, she added. "They (YEMS) are eager to have that program come...eager to have the staff working with their students as well."
An additional part of this program that is alluring is that there is no cost, from a financial standpoint, to the district. "We are simply providing the space," Hetrick said. "There is no cost for this program to us.
"The program is completely funded through a managed care (insurance) company other than the fact that we provide them a work space."
And in most cases, that just means using a classroom that would otherwise be empty.
Committee Chair Dr. Paul Yourchisin asked whether the school-based model is more efficient or effective than the traditional TSS model.
"Absolutely," Beaty Principal Rhonda Decker said. "The thing we have found, they have grown more vital to us. They become more of an integral part in what we do.
"Truthfully, now at any time during the school day, there is always support within the school building."
Hetrick explained that one of the reasons the district moved this direction is that there is no "clinical data" to support TSS programs. "They are starting to amass data" in support of school-based, she added.
Decker praised the ways the school-based staff reach out to families.
"We appreciate their reaching out to families," Decker added. "If there is any kind of disagreement with the school they act as a liaison. We have wonderful working relationship with them. We really reach a lot of students effectively. There isn't idle time. Every minute they are there there is someone who needs them."
"It's wonderful they are a resource," Board member John Grant said. "(Are there) any behavioral student outcomes measured to measure the effectiveness of the program? How do we determine and agree to whether this service is affecting their academics?"
Decker explained that school staff meet with the provider and the insurance company throughout the year and provide information on attendance, grades, Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores, and the number of discipline referrals received on a student to the insurance company so they can assess program effectiveness and "look for (a) positive correlation after they (students) have been in the program for six months or a year."
But the results are not always visible.
"We see positive things that you can't quantify," Decker said. "I think what the faculty would say what happens is a student's attendance increase(s)," family supports develop and students have extra adult support outside of school to ensure their assignments are completed.
"Is it drastic? No," Decker said. "But it makes a difference."
The committee moved a request to file a $14,000 grant to implement the program at YEMS, as well as an amended contract including Youngsville, to the full board for action at September's meeting.