Durango School District 9-R has added a behavioral-health coordination piece to its student support services in an ongoing effort to help youth become better able to learn.
“The research is very clear,” said Jackie Oros, the district’s chief student advocacy officer.
“Students’ academic success is linked to students’ social, emotional and behavioral health.”
Sean Evans will take on the newly created position of coordinator of Behavioral Health Support Service, which will be part of the Student Support Services department.
He comes to the district from Axis Health System, where he served as clinical and project manager. Evans has developed behavioral health programming for students in both community and educational settings, 9-R spokeswoman Julie Popp said.
“We see students of all ages with depression,” Evans said, “trauma, lots and lots of trauma, and anxiety. And it starts long before middle school or high school.”
Evans is based at Durango High School, where he works with counselors, teachers, students and families, Oros said.
He will also develop a framework for behavioral health support and education district-wide.
“Colorado’s ahead of the game on this,” Oros said. “The Colorado Department of Ed (Education) has developed standards for social, emotional and behavioral health well-being, and now we’re working on implementing them in Pre-K though 12th grade.”
While Evans is in the early stages of developing the framework, the goal is to have something workable by the time the next school year starts in August. Oros would like it to include plans for professional development for teachers and staff and ways to work more closely with families.
The district is considering a three-tiered approach at this point, with Tier 1 addressing educating all students to meet the state standards.
“The second tier would include building that personalized tool kit so students learn how to control themselves in situations that trigger behavior,” Oros said, “including skills such as decision making, building resilience and anger management.”
Between 5 and 10 percent of kids nationally fall in what will be the third tier, Evans said, requiring intensive behavioral health interventions.
The district is already collaborating with community partners to help students with behavioral health issues.
Axis Health System, which manages District 9-R’s two school-based health clinics, offers integrated physical and mental health care to students.
San Juan Basin Public Health is leading suicide prevention efforts.
La Plata Youth Services provides counseling and support services to at-risk kids of all ages. And the La Plata County Department of Human Services runs a program at Durango Big Picture High School for at-risk students and provides other resources.
Evans’ job will be to coordinate those services and determine what other needs Durango’s students have that need to be filled. One need he’s already identified is more child behavioral health providers.
“We’re not a mental health agency, we’re a school agency, and this is an evolving process,” Oros said.
“But we know that when a student has barriers, it gets in the way of their learning, and it gets in the way of others students’ learning.”