KILLINGLY — Push for a new vote on adding a school health center to Killingly High School failed to gain traction at Wednesday’s school board meeting.
Earlier this month, several board members requested that an agenda item be added to this week’s April 27 meeting to discuss authorizing Generations Family Health Center, Inc. to operate a school-based health center, or SBHC, in high school for one year.
A motion to move the item to “actionable” or voting status failed because it did not garner enough support from members. There was no discussion as to whether the matter would formally come back to the board.
A similar proposal was rejected by the council last month, but several members said at a meeting on April 13 that they were ready to reconsider the idea if, among other changes, parents could essentially prevent their children from use the center without authorization.
But Superintendent Robert Angeli told members that state law allows minors to avail themselves of the kinds of behavioral and mental health services that generations would provide without parental notification.
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He said Melissa Meyers, COO of Generations, informed him that instances of students accessing these services on their own in other cities were “extremely rare” with parents usually involved in the conversations.” hopefully, from the very first session.”
Angeli said that since Generations, which operates a school health center in the Putnam School District, funds its work through insurance billing, parents will know very quickly if a child is using the service.
Democrat Chris Viens, one of three board members to vote for the original proposal, proposed making the SBHC discussion a workable item, a request that required the support of two-thirds of the board.
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Only Viens and fellow Democrat Susan Lannon voted in favor of the motion.
The vote almost mirrored that of March 16 when Republican members Janice Joly – who has since resigned – Norm Ferron, Jennifer Hegedus, Kyle Napierata and Jason Muscara, as well as Democrat Lydia Rivera Abrams, voted against a proposal to bring a generation center in high school. for a period of five years.
Republican Kelly Martin, who originally voted for the center, voted against moving the issue to another vote on Wednesday.
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Supporters said the health center would be a crucial addition to addressing a rise in mental health issues, including depression, suicidal ideation and anxiety, among students.
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The March rejection prompted supporters of the center to file a complaint with the state Board of Education alleging that the board failed to “provide the minimum services and supports necessary to meet the social, emotional and mental health” of high school students in the district. The state, deeming the charge “substantial”, has opened an investigation into the complaint.
Viens, referring to the state’s investigation, said the board’s inaction on Wednesday put the “board’s charter in jeopardy.”
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The initial rejection also led to the successful filing of a citizens’ petition ordering the council to hold a public hearing on Thursday to ask the six members voting “no” to explain their positions. Angeli reiterated that council members have no obligation to answer questions during the hearing.
“Please don’t disappoint us”
As in previous meetings, public comments on Wednesday were overwhelmingly supportive of the school health center. Cillian Young, a former high school student, has opened up again about his suicide attempt amid a mental health crisis. He remembers his father entering the room where he attempted to kill himself.
“His face I will never forget,” he said. “This (SBHC) will not only help young people in Killingly, but parents. I love Killingly so much. Please don’t disappoint us.”
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Several speakers said the proposals made by board members to replace the health center with “alternative” options – peer mediation, anti-bullying programs and hiring more staff – were laudable ideas, but not adequate solutions.
Resident Heidi Driscoll said the alternatives were “not a substitute” for a school health center staffed by licensed mental health workers. She said a proposal to use the board’s permanent account to hire a psychotherapist, family therapist and other support staff was impractical because there are already 22 open positions at the high school.
“(The SBHC) would be fully funded at no cost to the city,” Driscoll said. “Why compromise? If it helps a student, it’s worth it.
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Resident Ivy Ross, who has three grandchildren in the district, asked why the council was dragging its feet on the issue.
“I don’t know why we’re still talking about it and not providing what Generations offered,” she said. “I don’t understand why the ‘no’ is voted here.”
John Penney can be reached at [email protected] or (860) 857-6965