Schools add mental health professionals to help curtail student substance abuse, Baker Acts

The district hopes to increase substance abuse treatment services in schools by 25%.

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More mental health professionals will be available to help Flagler Schools students this school year.

The district has added one specialist to its mental health budget, while a second position will be grant-funded. 

The district hopes to decrease the number of student Baker Acts incidents in the coming school year — there were about two dozen from campuses this past year — and reduce student substance abuse problems. (Florida's Baker Act allows people to be temporarily detained for a mental health evaluation if they are suspected of being a danger to themselves or others.)

Brandy Williams, the district's coordinator of counseling services, said she's been seeing increasing numbers of substance abuse cases with students  in lower grade levels.

"They’re going younger and younger every year," she said. "We really wanted to be able to incorporate that as part of our mental health plan."

The district, she said, hopes to increase substance abuse treatment services in schools by 25%.

That will include assistance for students using nicotine as well as those using alcohol and illegal drugs.

The district's newly hired director of student services, Marquez Jackson, said the district aims to use on-campus deescalation techniques to reduce the number of Baker Acts from campuses in coming years. 

"We’ve done a really good job over the past three years to significantly decrease that number," Jackson said, "and our goal is just to continue to provide training and education to our guidance counselors, to all of our licensed clinicians … to limit the need for involuntary evaluations."



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