MCCOMB, Miss. (AP) — The McComb School District says it's the first in the state to provide mental health counseling to students through a telehealth program with the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
It's making a difference for children with problems including depression, eating disorders and attempted suicide, the district's four school nurses told the McComb Enterprise-Journal .
The medical center's psychiatric nurse practitioners also can help with discipline problems, noted Margaret Hart at Otken Elementary School. "We have kids with mood disorders and those kids, they typically get into frequent fights," Hart said.
The nurse practitioners talk to kids individually via a computer and webcam. Otken's is in a small back room at the nurse's staiotn.
Some students have regular appointments. Others are recommended for the service based on the observations of parents, teachers and school officials.
"A lot of times their teachers ... see behaviors in the classroom that parents may not see at home," said Kristen McBeth, the nurse at Summit Elementary and Kennedy Early Childhood Center.
Hart said district officials looked for telehealth services for those schools and McComb High and Denman Junior High because the wait to see some mental health professionals in the McComb area can be months.
She said it also means parents don't have to find a way to get kids to appointments.
School nurses are important for many children whose parents work odd hours, may lack transportation or face losing their job if they have to take too much time off to take their child to the doctor, said Dionne Quin at Higgins Middle School.
"Sometimes we're the only health care professionals they see," she said.
And because the appointments are in the school nurse's office, there's no mental health stigma, the nurses said.
"You're just going to see the nurse, like everybody else," McBeth said.