Roanoke County School Board approves additional mental health counselors

Five new mental health experts to join county schools

Roanoke County schools will be getting five new mental health counselors -- doubling the number they already have.

The county school board approved the hiring at its meeting Thursday night.
The move is in response to a recommendation from the district's School Safety Advisory Committee.  
School officials estimate one in five students in the Roanoke County school system suffers from some sort of mental health issue - such as stress management, problem-solving and low self-esteem, among others.  
"This is a wonderful opportunity for Roanoke County schools because we are going to be able to focus on prevention for our students. This means every one of our middle and high schools will have an additional counselor. We already have five counselors and now we're going to have ten," said Dr. Shawn Hughes, associate director of school counseling for Roanoke County Public Schools.

The SAP (student assistance program) counselors will join the five new licensed mental health counselors to become LIFE counselors (LIFE stands for Leading Individuals and Fostering Empowerment) so that each middle and high school will have a dedicated full-time mental health counselor, in addition to the existing school counseling staff, according to a news release.

In addition, the board approved hiring two additional elementary school counselors so that every elementary school would have a dedicated full-time school counselor, the release said.

"Our school board stepped up and said, ... this is a need for our Roanoke County students. This has been an initiative for the safety committee. We take those issues very seriously and we want to meet the needs of our children," said Hughes.