State officials visit Lara Kendall

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Officials with Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) visited Lara Kendall Elementary Thursday, February 14.

School-Based Behavioral Health Liaison program provides Lara Kendall with a mental health specialist.

Danielle Leggett with Carey Counseling is acting as the school’s mental health specialist. She began working at Lara Kendall earlier in the school year.

Commissioner Marie Williams and other TDMSHAS officials heard from school staff about the program’s success so far. Carey Counseling representatives were also present.

“[Leggett] has done an excellent job here,” said Principal David Ayers. “This service has been a great asset to the school.”

Leggett is available to students during regular school hours. When a student is in need of mental health services, teachers refer the student to Leggett, who provides counseling pending parent approval.

In addition to the behavioral health program, Lara Kendall has also been the recipient of Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education). This program provides a behavioral specialist, Charlotte Lee, to the school.

The programs are part of Governor Bill Lee’s priority of addressing the mental health of students kindergarten through twelfth grade. Instead of focusing solely on academic performance, the state is making moves to focus on the whole child.

“We’re meeting students’ behavioral and social needs along with academic needs,” said Principal Ayers.

Lake County is one of 36 counties currently receiving school-based behavioral health liaison services. Governor Lee’s 2020-21 budget will allow an additional $3,014,300 to expand Project BASIC to all 95 counties in Tennessee.

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