New counseling services in Kingsport City elementary schools offer children long-term mental health care

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- Kingsport City Schools counselors are now getting some additional help in elementary schools from a community partnership.

“As school counselors we have a lot of different hats that we wear, and a lot of different roles that we fill,” said Colleen Weems, school counselor for Andrew Johnson Elementary School.

Colleen Weems teaches social development skills to a 2nd grade class at Andrew Johnson Elementary

Weems teaches social development skills in large classroom settings and assists students on more private individual levels. 

“Our individual work is brief, is targeted in a specific area, and if students need support for any extended amount of time, then we refer to our partners in community mental health or in the private sector,” she said.

Starting this new academic year, school counselors like Weems are working with employees of Camelot Care Center of Kingsport. About 20 students from each school now receive a more intensive level of counseling.

“The ability of Camelot to come in, and have that hub here within our schools, so they can meet those long-term counseling needs is such a huge factor in student success,” Weems said.

School counselors and Camelot counselors work together to
give students the support they need

Offering Camelot’s longer-term services within schools eliminates common barriers parents face when getting their children mental health services.

“Transportation is a barrier for a lot of our families in Kingsport City Schools,” Weems said. “So just the physical quality of going to the school to get the child, transporting the child to the appointment, transporting the child back from the appointment to school – can be a big barrier.”

Children don’t have to leave school, and parents don’t have to leave work.

“[Parents] may not be able to miss work to take their child to the appointments the child needs in order to have that level of support,” said Weems.

Parents pay for Camelot services in school the same way they would pay if counseling was done at an office. 

“So they are receiving the same level of care, the same level of service, and the billing for TennCare takes place in the same way.” Weems said.

Most importantly, the school counselors and Camelot counselors can collaborate together on each child’s long-term success. 

“Not every student is going to be referred for this service of course,” Weems said. “But overall, it bridges the gap for students that we would like to see have that extra level of service and that extra level of support, and we are able to provide that here at school now.”

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