New ESD social workers to aid in student behavioral health needs.

December 11, 2019

Christy Forrester, left, and Monique Selimos

New ESD social workers to aid in student behavioral health needs.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

West Shore School News is a presentation of the West Shore Educational Service District.

AMBER TOWNSHIP — The West Shore Educational Service District has created two general education social worker positions with the goal of meeting student needs outside the scope of special education. 

“We have seen an increase over recent years in children affected by trauma and therefore a growing need for services to help those children,” said Amy Taranko, assistant superintendent of instructional services. “The intent of the grant is to increase the availability of mental and behavioral health services and supports to general education students in grades kindergarten through 12.”

“By increasing these services, we are hoping to relieve some of the workload that school staff often have to take on and let them focus more on academics,” Taranko said.

The two positions are currently paid for through a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services School Mental Health and Support Services 31n grant created by and supported by the Michigan Department of Education.  The grant funding also requires a 20% match from the West Shore ESD. The funding’s primary purpose is to increase assistance to local school districts.

The free services are available to any of the public school districts serviced by the ESD, which include Baldwin Community Schools, Mason County Eastern Schools, Gateway to Success Academy, Mason County Central Schools, Ludington Area School District, Pentwater Public Schools, Hart Public Schools, Shelby Public Schools and Walkerville Public Schools.

“This is not intended to take the place of social workers or counselors who currently work in schools, but rather to extend services to students who have historically not qualified for mental and behavioral health services,” said Christy Forrester, who, along with Monique Selimos, serves as one of the social workers. “This is a collaborative effort and we hope to connect students and families with local services that may assist them further.” 

Forrester said the local schools have done a tremendous job counseling students with mental health needs but the schools also have limited resources to support mental and behavioral health services. 

“We are so grateful for this extra support for our students and staff,” said Jennifer Schultz, principal of Shelby Public Schools’ New Era Elementary. “Christy is supporting students on an individual basis and also providing support at the classroom level.   Students are coming to school with more social/emotional needs than ever and having the additional layer of support for our students is greatly appreciated.   Her insight and experience has been a welcome addition to our school.”

“Our staff at the WSESD is excited to partner with local districts and collaborate with community agencies as we build this new initiative to support success for all students,” Taranko said.

Parents seeking further information about the services may contact their school’s counselor or principal or contact the West Shore ESD at 231-757-3716.

The West Shore Educational Service District is funded through the support of taxpayers in Mason, Lake, and Oceana counties.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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