Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
PM considers teen screening
Support expressed for Samaritan Counseling suicide, depression prevention program PM considers teen screening BY ELAINE J. JONES, Correspondent
Penn Manor High School may begin screening freshmen as part of a suicide and depression prevention program being proposed by a local counseling agency.
First, district officials must decide if they are interested in partnering with Samaritan Counseling Center, 1803 Oregon Pike. But that is no guarantee Penn Manor will receive services, Superintendent Michael Leichliter said.
On Monday, Leichliter told the school board the program was pitched to five districts, and all five have expressed an interest.
The names of the other four districts could not be confirmed Tuesday.
In an email, Leichliter said Tuesday, "I know (Samaritan officials) are meeting with four other districts but they have not shared the names."
He said the contact for Samaritan is Gerald Ressler, executive director. Ressler confirmed Penn Manor's interest Tuesday, but he declined to identify the other districts because they are at "different levels of commitment" with Samaritan's proposal.
He said the counseling center currently does not have the resources to serve the five school districts, a point included in the information presented Monday to officials at Penn Manor.
A two-page proposal provided to the district by Samaritan says the counseling agency is looking to school districts to identify "a champion to advocate and represent the program," designate "a staff member, such as an administrative assistant, to arrange scheduling, communication with teachers ... and other logistics" and provide "access to students during school hours."
Screening would become part of routine health education through the nurse's office, Penn Manor officials were told. Based on student answers to a survey, families would be offered services to assist their children.
"I think it's a wonderful idea," board member Donna Wert said.
President Ken Long agreed, saying, "With all the emphasis on mental health in the past month, we need to take advantage of anything we can get."
According to Samaritan, the proposal is modeled after the Columbia University TeenScreen program, which is confidential and appropriate for youth ages 11 to 18. The screening is for "educational purposes as opposed to an assessment for diagnostic purposes," and the "liability is limited to ... making a referral" done by program staff.
Parent consent is required, according to the proposal. Also, "Teens are given a description of the process and are told that it is voluntary. Written participant assent is required" prior to completion of a "self-administered screening questionnaire via computer."
Penn Manor High School serves about 1,700 students in grades nine to 12.
Also Monday, the board members:
n Voted to continue a property tax rebate program.
Business manager Chris Johnston said last year 110 taxpayers participated in the program and 24 taxpayers qualified for the maximum rebate of $650, which has not changed since the program started in 2006.
n Discussed the merits of reinstating an annual census, which is mandated but not enforced. Johnston said the cost to bring back the initial census is $28,000 and the annual cost to keep up the information is $16,000. Johnston acknowledged, "Some districts are doing it, and some are not." Long said the mandate may be something local lawmakers should reconsider.
n Agreed to vote on a new school motto at their meeting scheduled for Feb. 19.
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