The state is looking to fill 30 behavioral health consultant contract positions this school year.
The new positions were created following Gov. Jack Markell’s January budget request to add at least one BHC in each of the state’s middle schools.
Earlier this year the General Assembly approved $3.3 million in the FY2014 budget for the mental health expansion.
While the money is there, finding the right employees to fill the positions is a challenge, says Andrea Wojcik with the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families.
“This is a different kind of position for us and there aren’t a huge amount of people who are going into child psychology these days,” Wojcik explained. “We know that factor may be working against us, 30 might be a little ambitious, and there is no doubt about that.”
BHC’s are licensed mental health professionals who can provide short-term counseling to students in the schools. Social workers, psychologists and licensed therapists are some examples of those who could qualify for the position.
“They will be doing screening for trauma and suicide and will be providing short-term counseling if necessary,” explained Susan Cycyk, director of the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services at for DSCYF. “They’ll also work within a classroom if they’re invited in. If the teacher is having a particular difficulty managing the behavior of a child in a classroom or needs some advice and would like somebody to sit in and look at what’s going on.”
Cycyk added that it’s not the BHC’s role to “discipline” any student, rather the BHC will be able to assist in early intervention and treatment of behavioral issues.
“Behavioral health services impact the child’s behavior so what we’re trying to do is help the child behave in a positive, effective, healthy, pro-social manner that will enable them succeed in school and at home and on the playground,” said Cyck. “It’s not discipline in that sense. We don’t see ourselves in that light.”
Last year, the state saw an alarmingly high rate of teen suicides and suicide attempts, prompting state officials to come up with new methods of helping students.
Between January 1 and May 4, there were 11 suicide deaths in Kent and Sussex Counties, and 116 suicide attempts from students between the ages of 13 and 21. Four students were from Polytech High School.
The department will be taking applications through Sept. 12. “We hope to be able to go through the applications as quickly as possible, get interviews set up and make those hiring decisions,” said Wojcik. “Then there will be a training period for them.”
Wojcik explained that these are contracted positions so employees won’t be eligible for state benefits. The salary of a BHC is $79,000.
In addition to the 30 behavioral health consultants the department is also searching for a contract manager and three county coordinators.
“The county coordinators will oversee the behavioral health consultants that are assigned to schools in their county,” explained Wojcik.
A full job description and application are available through the state’s Bid Solicitation Directory.