A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ASSESSMENT, SUPPORT, AND COUNSELING (ASC) CENTER
The first Assessment, Support, and Counseling (ASC) Center was established at Watauga High School (WHS) in 2006. The primary mission of the ASC Center is to address mental health concerns of the students and families by linking them with Appalachian State University (ASU) licensed mental health providers and graduate students in training under the supervision of licensed faculty.
In early 2006, Kurt Michael (ASU) and Angela Quick (the WHS Principal at the time) met over coffee several times to discuss the idea of having licensed mental health providers from ASU serve the Watauga students and to consult with the faculty and staff to address mental health concerns at the High School. The spirit of the idea was to help with teaching by addressing the behavioral and mental health issues that were impeding success at school in collaboration with the professionals already in the building (e.g., school counselors, social workers, teachers, administrators, school resource officers). In addition, by providing services at school, many of the barriers to receiving adequate mental health treatment (e.g., access, transportation, lack of financial resources) were addressed directly.
Shortly thereafter, discussions with the County administrators began to examine the practicality and logistics of such an agreement. The basic model of service delivery included: consultation/education with faculty and administration regarding mental health issues, crisis intervention, brief intervention, risk/substance abuse assessments, professional development, outreach, and referral. A memorandum of agreement (MoA) was written, revised, and endorsed by the administrators and attorneys from both agencies in May of 2007 and the first clinician served at the high school at the end of the 2006-07 academic year. By the fall of 2007, the plan expanded to include a graduate intern and weekly meetings with administrators and/or counselors to address the complex behavioral and academic needs of the students.
By the fall of 2008, a full time master’s level social worker, Jennifer Wandler, was hired by WHS to help coordinate the project. A total of 3 faculty supervisors across three disciplines were involved on a weekly basis, and several other professionals were invited to participate. Most importantly, the contributors were from different systems outside of the school (e.g., community mental health, Boone Police Department), different job roles within the school itself (administrators, social workers, professional counselors), and different academic disciplines at ASU (psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy). The primary source of clinical work is graduate students under the supervision of doctoral level faculty. This approach helps create a sustainable workforce, especially those interested in becoming qualified mental health clinicians. Moreover, ASC Center team members are invested in evidence-based practice. That is, we only use interventions that have been proven to be effective based on science.
The ASC Model has now been implemented in 3 school districts (Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany) and discussions are underway to expand the operations in Ashe County significantly. Today, ASC teams meet weekly across sites and provide services every day of the week during school hours. The results of the program evaluations thus far have revealed significant improvements in mental health struggles and academic outcomes for the majority of those who have received treatment. In addition, The ASC Model has been well received by students, parents, and professionals alike and improvements are being made constantly to ensure that the behavioral and mental health needs of the students are addressed to help school staff accomplish their academic objectives with our most precious commodity, young people of the High Country.
What We've Achieved
During the first half of the 2013/14 school year, the center served 41 students. In terms of service, the center provided crisis intervention to 20 students and individual therapy to 22 students. Of those served, 50% recovered or improved.
10% of the student body was served with 47 students taking part in individual therapy, and 45 taking part in group therapy. The students averaged about 13 sessions.
64 students were served. Of those served, 4/5 improved or recovered, 73% charted improved attendance and fewer disciplinary incidents, and 54% saw increased academic performance.