A school district in Washington County, Maine, in partnership with MCD Global Health (MCD), has rolled out a new behavioral health teletherapy program.

As a result, students and staff at Woodland Elementary and Woodland Junior-Senior High School in Baileyville, Maine, and across the county’s AOS 90 school district, now have access to virtual behavioral health services and other needed resources.

The program trains local residents as Community Health Workers and Service Navigators. The Navigators link students and families with needed resources to ensure all students who could benefit from behavioral health services have access to those services either in-person or via behavioral telehealth.

“This program responds to the urgent behavioral and mental health needs of young people in a meaningful way and illustrates how change can happen when committed community leaders come together,” said Patricia Metta, superintendent of AOS 90 school district, which includes the Woodland Elementary and Woodland Junior-Senior High School.

“We are excited as we expand this program to other schools in the district so students and families in surrounding communities have the same opportunity to access behavioral health teletherapy services without leaving the convenience and comfort of their schools,” she said.

Back in 2022, Baileyville residents identified access to behavioral health services as an urgent need through a community assessment by a Community Health Ad Hoc Committee formed by the Baileyville Town Council in August 2021.

Through a $500,000 matching grant from the Point32Health Foundation, the community was able to launch the new initiative. According to a press release, MCD leveraged the matching grant to secure additional funding from Pull Up Fund, Maine Health Access Foundation (MEHAF), Bingham Program, and Elmina B. Sewall Foundation. The press release said that overall resources for the program now exceed $1.5 million.

“This program has transformed the health and well-being of the students and families in this community,” said Jessica Melhiser, MHRT-CSP, children’s program manager at Aroostook Mental Health Services and care navigator for the program. “Students are getting the support they need and sharing the benefits with their classmates, their families, and others who need help. It brings hope to the hallways.”

Thus far, 30 students have been matched with behavioral health providers, both in person and virtually. The program is on track to serve a total of 80 students by July 31, 2023. The press release confirmed that year-round support is built into the model and gives students and faculty access to behavioral health teletherapy services throughout the summer.

“What began as an idea for a community center has evolved to become exactly what the community itself determined was urgently needed to improve the health, wellness, and quality of life in the small rural town of Baileyville,” said Kate Perkins, deputy director for U.S. program development at MCD. “Within the first month, 10 students were accessing new behavioral health services via telehealth. Elementary school and junior/senior high school parents quickly began requesting access to maintain students’ existing therapeutic relationships and minimize disruption to class time.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs