DENVER – Denver Public Schools has been busy securing school resource officers (SROs) following recent violence at East High School. Many DPS families are looking for improvements in not only physical protection, but mental support as well.
The board directed Superintendent Alex Marrero to work with the city to offer and externally fund as many as two armed police officers.
The board also requested: “…as many as two additional mental health professionals (social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists, and/or therapists) to include but not limited to talk, group, family, and/or art therapy at all high schools for the remainder of the 2022-23 school year.”
DPS already had mental health supports in place, but there’s no clear plan on increased support moving forward. CBS News Colorado spoke with the district Friday and learned it’s likely going to take a partnership with an outside agency.
Mental health professionals in outside practices have been hearing from families.
LPCC Bobby Dunham says he’s encountered an increase in parents and teens worried about safety.
“Parents are wondering ‘is it safe for me to send my kids to school? Do I need to start exploring homeschool options?'” said Dunham.
Dunham has become an outlet for many students who didn’t know they needed one.
“A lot of times, teens will come in and be like ‘I don’t know what we’re going to talk about, my mom’s making me come here.’ Then we don’t stop talking for the whole hour. They’re excited to come back because they’ve never had that space before,” said Dunham.
Last year, DPS’ pilot program increased school psychologists.
The teacher’s union told us counselors had.
Dunham says practices have been busy, too.
For many families, finding an appointment is just one barrier.
“It is really difficult if a student doesn’t have the financial resources to find a private practice counselor. They might not have many options,” said Dunham. “Therapists who are in network and accept insurance might have a full caseload. Counselors who are out of pocket, you can get session with, but you have to pay the whole amount. It’s really difficult.”
The state’s helped thousands of teens since the start of free counseling through I Matter.
But every week, there are more students who need support.
“It’s already difficult to be a teen in high school. On top of that, they’re sitting there wondering if they’re safe in their classrooms,” said Dunham. “Teens have it really difficult right now.”
East High students will be off Tuesday and for a Day of Support that’ll include support services for staff and students to connect with counselors.
CBS Colorado hopes to hear more from DPS on their mental health plan in the coming days.