The Cherry Creek School District partners with an online mental health platform

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aurora borealis | In addition to its on-site mental health resources, the Cherry Creek School District will now partner with online platform Hazel Health to offer virtual therapy to students.

The district follows neighboring Aurora Public Schools, which began making deals with Hazel in January to provide psychiatric care to high school students.

Hazel Health is an online therapy provider that contracts with licensed professionals across the country to provide virtual physical and mental health care. In addition to APS, it also works in Colorado with Denver Public Schools and a school district in Colorado Springs.

At its Monday meeting, the Cherry Creek Board of Education approved the district’s acquisition of Hazel Health’s services for the 2022-2023 school year.

According to documents on the Cherry Creek Board of Education website, the provider will work with middle and high school students, with the potential to expand to elementary school students as well. The contract is for one year, with an option to renew, and costs $423,000, which comes from the school’s general fund.

Hazel has been touted as a partial solution to the area’s shortage of mental health providers, particularly those working with children and adolescents. in one case study of his work In APS, Hazel said it served over 300 students and offered over 1,800 sessions over a five-month period.

“This significantly helped reduce district waitlists and ensured that waitlisted students who needed expedited care were able to receive it,” the case study reads. “Throughout the spring, Hazel supported 9 emergencies where Hazel was able to intervene immediately, create a safety plan and find local support for a student in need. For hundreds of other students, Hazel’s short-term mental health care served as a bridge until availability became available with one of the local school counselors or until they could meet with a local provider.”

The partnership with Hazel Health is the latest in Cherry Creek’s ambitious strategy to address student mental health issues, which also includes the development of a Day Center for Mental Health conducted in partnership with CU Anschutz and Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Superintendent Chris Smith said the district will also put up posters in schools with a code that students can scan to get a list of resources within the district and in the community for mental health assistance. Some of the posters will be placed in toilet stalls so that students can still access them if they are uncomfortable doing so in public.

During the board meeting, several board members and attendees shared that September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“It’s not a stigma, it’s a problem,” Smith said of mental illness. “Our students are willing to talk about it, and it’s important that adults are too.”

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