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School district team credited with reducing mental health hospitalizations

School district team credited with reducing mental health hospitalizations

Extra school board seat to open after member ends term early
School district team credited with reducing mental health hospitalizations
Schenectady School District crisis management team members Anna Brady, NPP, right, and Micah Ilowit are seen in April.
Photographer: Marc Schultz/Daily Gazette Photographer

SCHENECTADY -- The number of Schenectady students hospitalized for mental health reasons fell by more than 40 percent since last year, as a new social work team ramped up efforts to treat the district’s most serious cases.

The team consists of a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a pair of clinical social workers who coordinate closely with mental health providers in the community to serve students who struggle to achieve mental wellness.

“I believe in this work, and I’m proud to be here; I’m honored to be here,” said Anna Brady, the nurse practitioner who joined the district about a year ago to lead the new crisis prevention team, as she presented an update on the team's work to the school board on Wednesday.

The crisis prevention team, since June, has handled more than 150 referrals from school-based social workers and administrators, serving as the primary mental health provider for more than 60 students and their families. About 40 students are receiving psychiatric counseling and services directly from Brady.

All of the district's schools still have their own teams of social workers, but Brady's team was established to handle the most serious cases – from suicidal behavior and substance abuse to depression and anxiety. It was formed in response to a troubling uptick in the number of days students spent hospitalized due to mental health issues.

The team's initial results, which Brady presented to the board Wednesday, suggest their efforts are having an impact.

During the first five months of last school year, 62 Schenectady students were admitted for a psychiatric hospitalization. Over the same period this school year, 36 students were hospitalized due to mental health needs. During the same stretch of time in the 2016-17 school year, 74 students were hospitalized due to mental health needs.

“Bringing it down [that much], I think, is pretty remarkable,” schools Superintendent Larry Spring said during the presentation.

Board seats to be decided

Three Schenectady school board seats will be up for election in May, after board member Mark Snyder informed the board Wednesday he plans to step down early. He took a job recently with the New York State School Boards Association, which does not allow its employees to also serve as active school board members.

Snyder said he hopes to stay on the board through the end of June, allowing for a replacement to be elected in May to take his seat in July and serve out the remaining two years of his term.

But Snyder could not say definitively whether NYSSBA leaders would allow him to stay on the board that long. He said he was asking for an allowance because his leaving would be “inconvenient for many stakeholders.” If he leaves prior to June, the board could choose to appoint a replacement or leave the seat vacant until the May election.

Meanwhile, board members Cathy Lewis and Ann Reilly have indicated they plan to seek their fourth terms on the board in the spring. Lewis and Reilly, who were elected in 2010, are the longest-serving members of the board and have argued their experience is an asset that helps maintain stability.

“I think there is some value in having institutional memory on the board; it’s clear Cathy and I have that,” Reilly said Thursday. “We bring some valuable experience to the board.”

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