Long-awaited counseling services coming to Killingly schools

Mental health services come to Killingly High School
Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 7:18 AM EDT
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KILLINGLY, CT (WFSB) - The need for mental health help for young people has grown.

Channel 3 examined the demand in Killingly, where long-awaited services were slated to arrive in schools for the upcoming school year.

“If your student is not doing well, they will not succeed in high school,” said Julia Revellese, former Killingly High School student.

Revellese is 19 years old. She recently graduated high school and said she struggles with anxiety.

“Through those 2 and a half years, I saw all of the hardships that students went through, and I was one of those students,” she said.

Channel 3 asked Community Health Resources if it has seen an increase in demand for services, specifically among high school age students.

“Yes, we are,” said Michael Asinas, who oversees CHR’s counselors in Connecticut Schools.

As of Aug. 14, counselors were in about 30 schools statewide.

That number was said to be growing.

“Our school counselors are wonderful for what they do, but they’re not licensed to do the type of stuff that CHR can do,” said Raigan Leveille, a Killingly High School senior. “It’s definitely been a fight.”

Killingly was one of the newest districts on CHR’s list.

Leveille is about to start her senior year at Killingly High School. She said she’s grateful for new mental health services.

“For us especially, mental health is becoming such a prominent issue within our school and town,” she said.

She created a student wellness committee, which helps struggling students have a safe space. She’s one of many students who fought to get services in place.

Earlier this year, students staged a sit-in.

The Board of Education made a change.

Licensed counselors will be in schools to help students deal with trauma, anxiety, or depression.

“As Killingly is a little more remote from Willimantic where our main clinic is, it makes it easy for access,” Asinas said.

Two counselors from CHR will see students throughout the school day.

Services will also be available at the Killingly Intermediate School.

“The goal is to actually expand into the elementary schools as well,” said Kathleen Cote, Killingly schools director of mental health, student wellness and family engagement.

CHR does an assessment on each child seeking services and works with the parents to come up with a plan for treatment.

“We want to normalize mental health and the discussions around mental health,” Cote said.

Experts said the earlier a person can treat anxiety the better.

“The younger you do that, the better,” Cote said. “It becomes second nature to someone to make sure that they’re taking care of their mental health.”

Students will need permission to receive counseling. CHR will bill the parents’ insurance.

For those without insurance, they’ll pay on a sliding scale.

“For a while there was a bit of a gap between the staff and the students,” Leveille said. “The wellness group we’ve created is here to bridge that gap.”

The school district said it has already been working to identify students who may need counseling.

“Given my own experiences struggling with mental health when I was in high school, it’s so vital that you start getting help early,” Revellese said.

The need for mental health help for young people has grown.