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A mental health partnership: School district and local non-profit combine to provide services

Fergus Falls Daily Journal - 1/30/2023

Jan. 30—Lakeland Mental Health Center is a private, non-profit corporation that has provided behavioral healthcare services in west central Minnesota since 1949; the organization maintains a vision of providing high quality and accessible behavioral healthcare for individuals, families and communities.

To meet this broad mission and to be responsive to identified needs, many community partnerships have been formed with area schools, clinics and other community providers to ensure coordinated care for LMHC's clients ranging in age from children to seniors.

Colleen Kennedy is a clinical social worker with LMHC and explains how the organization started co-located work in Fergus Falls schools back in 1990: "It started with the Children's Day Treatment Services in collaboration with Otter Tail County, Fergus Falls Public Schools and the West Central Minnesota Initiative Fund."

"At this time, LMHC has mental health practitioners and mental health professionals that are co-located at all of the Fergus Falls Schools," Kennedy continues. "We have staff who do combined part-time school work and part-time practitioner work."

Kennedy goes on to explain that in their school role, mental health professionals serve the function of a school counselor, while in their LMHC role they provide children's mental health case management services.

"Our professionals provide individual and group therapy services students that have been referred for mental health treatment by social workers, school staff, parents, doctors or probation agents," Kennedy continues. "Our staff have also provided various trainings to students in classrooms or teachers on staff development days. Topics vary by the education committee's request, such as coping with secondary traumatic stress. LMHC also provides EAP services to Fergus Falls School staff, in the office-based setting."

Kennedy says that students are typically referred to services by parents, school staff or social workers. Once a referral is made, the student would need to complete a diagnostic assessment to determine the level of need and eligibility for services.

Over the years, Kennedy explains that LMHC staff and Fergus Falls School staff have developed very effective communication and referral processes: "The need to support our students' mental health is essential to promote educational success. We share the common goal of providing safe and equitable services to children who may not have the resources to access office-based treatment."

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