School is an important lifeline for a student, sometimes the only connection between a child’s family and the community resources they need to thrive. The School Liaison Program, directed by Stacy Merryweather, has been meeting children’s needs since 1999, serving over 2,000 students in the last fiscal year.
The program works in partnership with the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County, Appleseed Community Mental Health Center, and the local school districts in Ashland County, working proactively toward student health and success.
Liaisons are present at the schools on a daily basis providing:
Merryweather cites a number of program success stories, including "boot camps" for students transitioning from elementary to middle school. "Students were given their own private orientation to the school, learned how to open their locker combinations (something that causes extreme anxiety at this age level), given organizational and study strategies, as well as had the opportunity to meet some of the older students and administrators and ask questions …. Students were also given school supplies to help with meeting their back to school needs."
One high school student who benefited from the liaison program graduated, married, had two children, and went to college to earn her associate degree. She contacted the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County for a practicum placement. "She has become such a great addition to our team," Merryweather explains, “that we hope to find a way to employ her within the agency when she is done with her schooling."
In terms of the success rate of the program, the numbers speak for themselves.
What makes the program so accessible to area families is the cost: zero. Merryweather explains that the Mental Health levy funding that supports the program enables them to provide their services for free, removing any "hoops for families to jump through and giving us a lot of flexibility in how services are provided." Students don’t need to go through an intake process or receive a diagnosis to work with a liaison, meaning they can receive the help they need right away.
Merryweather looks forward to the School Liaison Program’s continued growth. Ohio’s new state budget provides Student Wellness and Success funds, enabling several districts to add time for school liaison work. "We are hoping to add even more positions in the next year," Merryweather says. “It is exciting to think about growing our team and our ability to make a difference in the lives of more students and families in Ashland County."