MN School Social Workers: Mental-Health Demands are Real
Tuesday, April 5, 2022
COVID cases are down in much of the U.S., but the pandemic's lingering effects are growing larger. School social workers in Minnesota point to mental-health demands among students, and they hope lawmakers respond.
Social workers team up with nurses and psychologists to help students cope with stress and anxiety. In a report from the ACLU, Minnesota is among the many states failing to meet the recommended student-to-staff ratios for each role.
Sherry Murphy, a social worker for East Grand Forks Public Schools, said her district is understaffed in this area, which is a major concern in the current environment.
"The referrals keep coming, you know, the challenges are here," Murphy observed. "There's a cry from our school educators, that are saying, 'Our students need support. We need to help our kids with their social and emotional and mental health needs.'"
In a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 44% of high school students reported consistently feeling sad or hopeless in the past year.
Murphy also leads the Minnesota School Social Workers Association, which is calling on the Legislature to approve a bill which would dedicate funding to boost support staff. While the state has a large budget surplus, Democrats and Republicans appear far apart on school funding plans.
Christy McCoy, a social worker for St. Paul Public Schools, feels there is room for bipartisanship. Because support personnel are included in general funding, districts choose between hiring teachers and social workers. She's convinced the bill would reduce those difficult staffing choices.
"It's really about addressing the shortages," McCoy asserted. "And it's ensuring that the student support service personnel are serving within their scope and practice of their training and licensure, and really, integrating learning models, instruction, school management, et cetera."
Kate Adams, district family resource coordinator for Farmington Area Schools, said even though student mental health was a concern before the pandemic, said they are approaching current needs on a much larger scale.
"That's taking a lot more staffing and effort, in training and preparation," Adams emphasized.
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