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Challis Area Health Center personnel have been approved to provide on-site emotional counseling in Challis schools in a partnership between the school district and the clinic.

School board member Kate Taylor, who is the grant manager for the health center, said it expands options students have to deal with the stresses of school and preparing for their futures. Lemhi Valley Social Services provides similar counseling services to Challis students, Superintendent Lani Rembelski told board members, but this new partnership will be “another tool we can use.”

Using money allocated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, health center workers will establish offices in both the Challis elementary and high schools. Taylor said Marla Andrews, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in adolescents, will use the two spaces to provide mental and emotional support to students.

Having on-site mental health care for students saves them and their parents from scheduling appointments and trying to get to them at the health center. If a student has an issue that requires professional attention, then Taylor said they’ll be able to talk to Andrews without having to leave school.

Even though public school counselors do their best to help students deal with the stresses of life, Taylor said they have different goals than someone like Andrews. While school counselors also try to help students plan for their futures with internships, job searches and college applications, Taylor said this partnership is exclusively about helping students with their behavioral, emotional and mental health in the moment.

According to Taylor, health center officials have wanted a partnership with the school district since 2015. However, it wasn’t until Andrews began working at the center more than a year ago that they were able to move forward. Now that they have school board’s approval, Taylor said the next step is to notify Health Resources and Services Administration personnel. Once that’s done, they can begin the process of having the counseling spaces ready by fall, Taylor said.

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