District to begin conducting mental health screenings

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Park High School will begin screening ninth-graders for social and emotional health concerns in March as part of a push to include mental health screenings in the district’s health regular screening processes, the Livingston School District announced Tuesday. The screenings will take less than 15 minutes to complete, according to a district press release, and will be done via computer.

School Nurse Holly Sienkiewicz said Wednesday she hopes social and emotional health screenings become part of the regular array of health screenings done by the school district, similar to screenings for hearing and vision.

The screenings are useful because students who test positive for certain parameters can be flagged and helped right away, Sienkiewicz said.

“In much the same way as early detection and treatment of cavities can prevent more serious, longterm dental health issues, early detection and treatment of social and emotional health issues can have long-term, positive impact,” the release said.

If students need immediate support, the nurse will contact the student’s parents and lead them through the school’s crisis response plan, according to the release. If the parents can’t be reached, the student will remain under observation until the parents are contacted or the student receives an evaluation from emergency health care. Sienkiewicz said she hopes the screenings can help normalize social and emotional health issues and treatment.

The screenings will start with just ninth-graders, according to the release, and gradually made available to all students in grades six through 12 as long as it functions as anticipated.

“Without screening, these students needing support might otherwise go unnoticed,” the release said.

Parents have been notified of the program by school nurses, the release said, and will have to opt in for their children to participate.

There has been an uptick in mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sienkiewicz said, but planning this effort goes back before COVID.

The district worked with community health care and mental health providers on planning this project, according to the release.

“We as a community and as a school district have a higher prevalence of some mental health issues and we want to be mindful of that and get ahead of it if we can,” Sienkiewicz said.