How many Alexandria students are using new virtual mental health service?

Dozens of Alexandria, Virginia, students have been referred to a virtual telemental health service in the first few weeks the program has been in place, officials said at a school board meeting last week.

Earlier this fall, Alexandria City Public Schools announced plans to partner with Hazel Health to offer free virtual mental health services to students. Once referred, they can schedule therapy appointments and be connected with additional local services if needed.

At a school board meeting last week, executive director of diversity and equity Kennetra Wood said that, as of Oct. 18, the city had 39 referrals. As of the Nov. 2 meeting, though, Wood said 70 students were referred and 20 had enrolled.

Not every student who is referred ends up enrolling, school leaders said, explaining there may be other interventions better suited to address a student’s needs. Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt said Hazel Health “is not the one place for everyone to go.”

The usage data was presented as part of a broader conversation about the city’s social emotional learning efforts, during which city leaders described initiatives to address overall student well-being.

“I’m excited about these numbers,” board member Ashley Simpson Baird said. “It hasn’t even been around for a month, and we’re already getting students services. That’s great to see.”

The top reasons for referral, Wood said, are family concerns and peer relationships. Anxiety, anger and sadness are also on the list. Some referrals can include more than one reason, she said.

Student board member Torenzo Ricks praised the service, which he said has helped him navigate senior year stresses, such as post-graduation plans.

“Of course, I get to talk to my counselors, I get to talk with people in my academy, but to hear somebody else’s perspective, it’s absolutely amazing,” Ricks said.

However, Wood said, teletherapy may not be the best option for all students. Referrals could be sent to community-based counselors or an outside agency.

“Being online with someone isn’t the best way for every student, but it would work for a large percentage of our students,” Wood said.

The school system is planning to continue monitoring Hazel Health referrals and usage. Nearby Fairfax County Public Schools started offering the service to high schoolers last year.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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