116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Foundation 2 crisis intervention services will expand to all 32 public school districts in the Grant Wood Area Education Agency, which area superintendents say gives them some “peace of mind” to know trained mental health professionals are a phone call away if a student is experiencing a mental health crisis.
The Grant Wood AEA board of directors last week approved a one-year agreement with Foundation 2 crisis services Juvenile and Family Assistance and Stabilization Track, also known as J-FAST.
The agreement builds upon a pilot partnership that started two years ago with a few school districts in the area, including Solon and West Branch schools, expanding it to districts such as Alburnett.
It’s a service the district is thankful to have, but Alburnett Superintendent Dani Trimble said she hopes it never has to be used.
“It’s like insurance,” she said. “It’s peace of mind that highly trained individuals are one phone call away.”
Alburnett partners with Covenant Family Solutions mental health clinic to provide counseling services to students. J-FAST is another piece of the puzzle and can help the district “act quickly” if a student is in crisis before referring him or her to Covenant Family Solutions, Trimble said.
J-FAST equips the district to better support students and families experiencing a mental health crisis, Solon Superintendent Davis Eidahl said.
“I think all of us are in the same position,” Eidahl said. “We do a great job with our school counselors, even providing some small group and individual counseling for students, but this is a resource beyond what we can provide in a school system.”
Grant Wood AEA supports more than 72,000 students in public and accredited non-public schools in seven counties including Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn and Washington counties.
During the 2020-21 school year, J-FAST received 36 calls from districts in the program.
When a school district places a call for assistance to J-FAST, counselors are dispatched to quickly intervene and help parents or schools in situations in which students are struggling with depression, violent behavior, substance abuse, self-harm or thoughts of suicide.
The team’s focus is to stabilize school-based crisis situations and connect students with immediate services.
“Access to mental health services has always been important, but where we’re really seeing students struggle is in rural communities that lack adequate funding or nearby resources and organizations,” said John Speer, Grant Wood AEA chief administrator.
“Every superintendent in our seven-county service area has discussed concerns with supporting students’ mental health needs as a primary, continuing need, and this partnership provides an additional resource for them to use this school year.”
West Branch Superintendent Marty Jimmerson said counselors and teachers do a “great job” meeting students needs, but J-FAST is the “next level of support.”
“It’s nice to have that security,” he said. “If there’s a situation where we need some extra support to help students, they’re right there for us.”
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