Franklin students benefit from Catalyst Counseling's on-site mental health services

Catalyst Counselor Bridget Petri said this about the on-site mental health services provided to Franklin City Schools' students: "It's hard work, but it's worth it to see the kids click and reach goals."Catalyst Counseling, LLC, based in West Chester, is a private practice under contract with FCS to provide school-based mental health services. The partnership with FCS is in its third year; it's expanded from one classroom building (Franklin Junior High) to all eight. The firm's reach has also grown; they began in Edgewood and have expanded to 13 districts including Lakota, Ross, Madison, Springboro, and Butler Tech. Catalyst accepts most insurance plans and has private pay options. Petri noted that Catalyst wants to start a nonprofit foundation to raise funds to close the gap for students who don't have insurance and can't pay out of pocket. "We originally had one counselor for the whole district," said Petri, " but have moved to being full time in each building." She explained that being embedded in the buildings wove counselors into the school community and allowed daily interaction with teachers and students. Petri noted that a selling point for students to take advantage of the services is having a safe place -- someone they can go to and talk to without judgement. She added that during COVID, kids are struggling with isolation; they may not have access to WiFi, and they are grieving about missing their friends. Referrals for services may come from teachers, family, guidance counselors (especially at the junior high and high school levels), and from students themselves. "We've streamlined the paperwork," said Petri. "It's all online now; it makes it easier and gets kids set up quicker."Jim Rhoades, principal of Anthony Wayne Elementary, said having counselors on-site is valuable for a number of reasons. "It's less time that students are out of the building for those appointments," said Rhoades, "ensuring that students are not missing important classes. It also allows the staff to work with therapists to meet a client's needs." He added that if there's an emergency such as a death in [a student's] family, that emergency services were available and that therapists were also available to offer education on mental health issues to teachers and classes. Dr. Mike Sander, superintendent of Franklin City Schools, emphasized the value of ready access to mental health services, "These services put our students in a better state of being ready to learn and allows them to be focused on getting an education instead of worrying about other issues." He echoed Jim Rhoades' appreciation of having counselors on-site. "It's a great way to make sure that students can make their appointments."Petri noted that in the education field, there's been a shift in thinking about the value of counseling; "If kids know how to cope with anxiety, they have skills to be able to function better in school." She cited the example of a high school senior who had a lot of anxiety and no confidence. "[The student} didn't know how to problem solve; once they knew they had a support system they almost became a different person, they graduated, attended college, and are doing well in life."In addition to in-school counseling, Catalyst also offers a hybrid model of counseling via telehealth, home-based, or within the community. In addition to meeting students' needs, they also provide services to community members, parents, and district staff. Franklin parents, staff, and students who have questions should reach out to the therapist in their building, or contact district's lead counselor Bridget Petri at bridgetpetri@catalystcounselingllc.org or 937-210-9754. Catalyst Counseling may also be reached at (513) 360-8205. ###

* This article was written by district staff.

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