Clay County introducing program to give at-risk students additional support

School district partnering with motivational coaches

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - Addressing emotional and behavioral health issues in schools, Clay County is rolling out a new program to help keep kids on track.

Last year, the I-TEAM revealed alarming statistics showing Clay County had one of the largest spikes in children being hospitalized under the Baker Acted, meaning their hospitalization was due to an involuntary psychiatric evaluation.

A new program will give at-risk students the support they need.

"What's happening here as a precursor to dealing with a child's behavior, children are being Baker Acted," said Julio Avael, president, Motivational Coaches of America.

In 2015, more than 350 kids in Clay County were hospitalized with an involuntary psychiatric evaluation -- a nearly 40 percent jump over the past five years.

Many of the kids were found to be dealing with issues like pregnancy, violence, substance abuse and depression. Superintendent Addison Davis says those concerns should be addressed before things get out of hand.

"Junior high school is where students mentally drop out, and they physically drop out in high school, so if we can be proactive and address our learners at an earlier stage, we can put them on a path to success," Davis said.

That's why Clay County Schools is partnering with Motivational Coaches of America -- to give students the resources they need.

"Trained licensed mental health professionals on school campuses," Avael said. "We refer to them as motivational coaches because we need to change the dialogue built around mental health."

Coaches will be on campus all day to provide mental and behavioral health services and treatment plans.

Seventy-five students will be chosen from each participating school to measure to progress of this program quarterly, using data like academic performance, behavior and attendance.

MCUSA takes care of all the costs related to the program. The Clay County school district is launching the program at three middle schools this month with plans to expand the program to all middle schools by next fall.

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