Wyoming will participate in a national initiative designed to improve how schools respond to the social and emotional needs of K-12 students. The state is one of nine awarded this opportunity, and Teton County will be the first district to participate.
The effort, led by the National Coalition for the State Advancement of School Mental Health and hosted by the Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland, will work with Wyoming districts to evaluate their existing mental health supports, identify strengths, and coach them through improvements.
Kenya Haynes, who is coordinating the project for the Wyoming Department of Education, said Wyoming may have been selected because every county is considered a mental health shortage area.
“So when you’re dealing with young people that puts a lot of responsibility on schools to fill that gap that in more urban areas might be filled by some other service provider,” said Haynes.
Haynes was particularly motivated to apply to the program because of the increase in the number of homeless students in the state. Many of them have experienced traumatic events and are struggling emotionally.
Haynes said this project could bring more nuance to mental-health support, “and kind of move to a more trauma informed model so that student mental health needs aren’t considered discipline problems but medical problems.”
Through this initiative, the hope is to identify a set of best practices, and Haynes said the WDE will also be “looking for ways to push information that would support districts in moving in that direction.”
Haynes said after starting with Teton County this year the plan is to get three more districts involved.