The School Outreach Program aims to reach hundreds of children and teenagers who previously would have gone without counseling services, said Sarah Lewakowski, TCM Counseling’s executive director. The program provides the same professional counseling that is provided in a therapist’s office — for individuals and group counseling.
“We wanted to be able to help them before their issues reached the crisis level,” Lewakowski said.
This year, the K-12 program will reach students in 24 schools across the county.
The program started at Grand Haven’s Central High School and has grown to now include Grand Haven High School, Lakeshore Middle School, White Pines Intermediate School and every school in the Spring Lake district. It is also in 10 schools in the West Ottawa district and two schools in the Holland district. Lewakowski said they’re also working to add schools in four additional districts.
“TCM would like to expand our service area to help as many young people and adults as possible,” she said.
Lewakowski said the School Outreach Program is important considering the 2017 Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey. According to the survey results, 28.9 percent of the county’s youth reported feeling depressed. About 13.6 percent of survey respondents indicated that, in the past 12 months, they made a plan about how to attempt suicide.
“TCM’s mission is to offer hope and healing for all by providing accessible and affordable professional counseling services,” Lewakowski said. “Our School Outreach Program aligns with our mission of removing all barriers.”
Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton said that like other schools, his district has seen an increase in the number and severity of mental health issues students face.
“All too often these challenges relate to depression, anxiety and other crises that force learning to the back seat,” he said. “This is where our partnership with TCM is most critical. Through their School Outreach Program, TCM provides support for students who are in crisis as well as providing on-going support for students who are experiencing more minor difficulties that may get in the way of their learning.”
Given the nature of the mental health issues, Furton said it’s important the support comes from experienced and expert sources, which TCM provides.
“Looking ahead, it is crystal clear that our need for this type of support will only continue to grow,” Furton said.
Kate Augustyn, the director of special education for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, said they work with TCM Counseling so students who wouldn’t otherwise have access to outside counseling services can get help.
“For students that need services above and beyond what the school can offer, this allows students to receive services that they would never be able to get to if they had to travel to get them,” she explained. “Given the stress that some students have, providing some additional services allows students to get the additional help they might need.”
Augustyn said they’ve had a great relationship with TCM.
“The extra services that are provided for our students that need a bit more is exceptional, and we appreciate all that TCM offers,” she said.
TCM Counseling also provides Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Suicide Prevention Training to students, parents and staff. Last year, QPR training was provided to eighth-graders in the Grand Haven district; and all eighth-graders, sophomores and seniors in Spring Lake Public Schools. Training was also provided for staff and parents throughout Ottawa County, Lewakowski said.
In addition to the School Outreach Program, TCM Counseling also has 60 therapists. For more information, visit www.tcmcounseling.org.