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Birmingham City Schools to Increase Mental Health Services for Students

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BCS Superintendent Mark Sullivan, ED.d

By Barnett Wright

The Birmingham Times

With the first day of school set to begin Aug. 8, the Birmingham Board of Education on Tuesday approved an agreement to increase the availability of behavioral health services for students and their families.

Birmingham City Schools (BCS) and Alabama Regional Medical Services (ARMS) will collaborate to provide the services at six schools, in addition to its current wraparound services clinic at Wenonah High School.

BCS Superintendent Mark Sullivan, Ed.D. said educators recognize the challenges many students face, especially with the impact of COVID-19.

“We want all scholars and their families to have the best opportunity for success,” Sullivan said. “Research shows that access and support for mental and behavioral is often needed to help students progress.”

The schools will provide space for behavioral health professionals to serve the students. ARMS will offer the services, using grant money and Medicaid payments to handle the costs. Students and families will not be charged out-of-pocket expenses for the services.

The new services through ARMS will be offered at Hayes K-8, Washington K-8, Green Acres Middle, Carver High, Huffman High and Brown K-5. ARMS also will also continue providing a variety of medical and behavioral health services through its dedicated clinic at Wenonah High School.

Nanette Allen, interim ARMS CEO, said this partnership with Birmingham City Schools grew out of a shared commitment to addressing the total health of students and their families.

“We are honored to serve Wenonah High School, and we are excited to expand services to six additional schools in the upcoming year,” Allen said. “The health and well-being of students and all Birmingham residents is a priority for us.”

The collaboration between the two entities is another step in helping students with behavioral health. Last year, Birmingham City Council voted to approve $1 million to aid BCS mental health services program for students.

At the time, Sullivan, spoke of the toll COVID-19 had on families, parents and students.

“We have unfortunately lost eight employees to COVID-19 and a student at Jackson Olin High School,” he said. “That cannot help but to impact the way instruction happens in the classroom and how students deal and socialize every single day.”

The losses have created unusual problems for staff and family members, he said.

“[People involved with BCS] haven’t had an opportunity, like they have in the past, to do a full-fledged funeral where people bring in family members, and you have an opportunity to grieve. That has worn on them.”

ARMS has served the greater Birmingham area since 1983 with a variety of affordable health services including comprehensive urgent, acute, and primary health care as well as being a Certified Primary Care Medical Home (PCMH) to the underserved, uninsured, under-insured, low-income and homeless individuals in the area community.