Public school administrators in Ava, Mo. enlist the support of a behavioral health counselor

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 9:35 PM CST
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AVA, Mo. (KY3) - One school district in the Ozarks is taking a new approach to helping students navigate the pressures of learning.

Ava Elementary has a new staff member whose role goes beyond teaching.

“If students don’t feel safe and secure they’re not going to learn,” said Ava Schools Superintendent Aaron Dalton.

He says meeting the needs of students in his community has evolved.

“We sit here at school and we talk about curriculum, ABCs, and those kinds of things. But we talk about students’ safety first,” he said.

It’s why the district has teamed up with Missouri Ozarks Community Health to offer behavioral health counseling on its elementary school campus.

“Asking for help is strength,” said therapist April Moody.

She says one of the biggest hurdles for young students is the ability to navigate social pressures.

“Personally and professionally my goal is to bridge the gap, of being able to help the kids communicate better,” she said.

She explains working with younger students is key to heading off bigger issues.

“We’re seeing the increase in suicides. We’re seeing an increase in alcohol. We’re seeing an increase in abuse between young partnerships. So yes, at this level,” said Moody.

Currently, Moody is roaming the halls and getting into the classrooms. Eventually, they will be able to see her on a one-on-one basis. She says working with elementary school kids to gain acceptance of themselves and each other will help foster a positive school experience.

“I’m not here to put a label on a child. I’m not here to put a label on a family. I’m here to help them grow and help them get past all the little rough bumps, or hills, or mountains,” said Moody.

“I’m excited to offer that to our community,” said Dalton.

Missouri Ozarks Community Health also offers mental health support for students in the Licking School District through an off-campus clinic.

Five of their clinic locations also provide support services.

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