Audit: C-A short on mental health training | Greene County


COXSACKIE — The Coxsackie-Athens Central School District lacked proper mental health training in such areas as accessing crisis support and recognizing warning signs, according to an audit report made public Tuesday by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

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The audit covered the 2020-21 school year and 20 schools were selected at random. State Education Department regulations require that mental health training bQe offered to school district staffs prior to Sept. 15.

“Failure to do so can have devastating consequences for students, staff, families and communities,” DiNapoli said. “Unfortunately, my office has found much of this vital training is not taking place. School districts should follow SED guidance so everyone from the superintendent to the substitute teacher is properly trained to identify problems. Our nation is facing a mental health crisis, and we need to help our students.”

Eighteen of the 20 schools did not provide mental health training or other recommended components, according to the report. Recommended components are defined in the audit as how to access crisis support and recognizing warning signs such as obsessive compulsive behavior, psychotic episodes and eating disorders.

The audit was performed last summer and fall, Coxsackie-Athens Central School District Superintendent Randall Squier said Tuesday.

“The state Education Department requires that all mental health trainings are completed by Sept. 15,” Squier said. “Because this time frame lands before the start of the academic calendar, the trainings are offered during faculty days.”

Squier said Coxsackie-Athens is sufficiently staffed to meet the challenges cited in the audit.

“Aside from the expected date of completion for trainings not being met, Coxsackie-Athens School District has five guidance counselors, one social worker and two psychologists,” he said. “We also contract out to Greene County for an on-site therapist. Twin County provides the district with an on-site drug counselor as well.”

Prior to DiNapoli’s findings, the Coxsackie-Athens School District added a school counselor position to its budget for the 2022-23 school year. The new position will be responsible for working with students ages 7-12 who are potentially at risk.

Coxsackie-Athens also partners with local colleges such as the University at Albany, Squier said. The district has two University at Albany psychologist interns. The interns work with the district for the full school year.

The report found that the most common component that schools lacked in their mental health training was material on “whom to turn to.” Only seven of the 20 audited schools provided guidance on how to access crisis support. “Trauma and stress-related disorders” was the most addressed warning sign in training offered by 11 of the districts.

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