HARVARD -- The Bromfield School Council identified and researched a mental health referral service at the beginning of the last school calendar year that neighboring towns were benefiting from.
The council recommended this service be part of the school improvement plan. While it got approval, there was not sufficient funding for it. The police and fire departments were also interested in the service, the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP) Interface Referral Service. With support from the Harvard Schools Trust and the Lions Club, Harvard is one of more than a dozen member communities benefiting from the MSPP Interface. Neighboring towns of Groton, Littleton, Westford, Ayer, Lincoln and Concord are also members.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five children have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder. The Centers for Disease Control includes prevalence data for children ages 8 to 15, which shows that about 13 percent of children ages 8 to 15 had a diagnosable mental disorder within the previous year.
"Times have changed considerably and it's hard for parents who are trying to get their kids help," said James O'Shea, principal of the Bromfield School. "Now when we recommend counseling and support, we can also refer parents to the MSPP Interface and they will have an appointment booked with someone within two weeks."
The Interface service is available to Harvard families and families with children in the Harvard Public Schools. The service offers a Helpline with counselors available to talk to parents about their child's mental health issues. The counselors also gather insurance information and find several appropriate matches to suit the particular need, by utilizing a comprehensive database of providers.
Terry Symula, a Harvard resident, was co-chair of the Bromfield School Council when the Interface service was researched, and she was instrumental in getting the service approved for Harvard.
"One of the key components of the Interface service it its website," said Symula. "It's a great 24/7 resource of information for parents who are researching behavioral and mental health issues." The site provides resources for teens; tools for medical providers; special needs camps; therapeutic schools; and sources of help in urgent mental health situations. Information and resources are available on the MSPP Interface website for over 30 topics, ranging from anxiety and OCD disorders, to bullying, to sexual orientation, to substance abuse.
The Bromfield School serves 710 students in grades 6-12. The school offers a variety of student clubs promoting tolerance and good citizenship, including the Gay Straight Alliance; SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions); World of Difference Peer Training Program (promotes positive social change in the school and community); Bromfield Cares (volunteering, raising awareness and fundraising to address issues in the community and beyond); Global Awareness Club (committed to informing students about the serious issues the world faces today by supporting charities that promote the social and economic advancement of the world's impoverished); and an Environmental Club.
The Interface link is available on the Bromfield School website, www.psharvard.org/bromfield. The toll-free helpine is 1-888-244-6843, ext. 1411.