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State health official asks school district to reconsider visitor policy

by Minden Press-Herald

Discussion over the Webster Parish School Board’s visitors’ policy will continue following heartfelt pleas from parents and guardians to keep counselors in the schools.

Doug Efferson, executive director for the Northwest Louisiana Human Services District, came to the board meeting Monday with a letter in hand asking board members to reconsider their decision in January that no longer allows personal service providers, such as counselors and psychiatrists, to conduct services on school grounds.

“My board of directors asks that the board reconsider their January decision to allow mental health providers to provide on-campus mental health services for the students of Webster Parish,” he read from the letter. “It is our belief that these services are needed to insure the health and safety of all students in Webster Parish. We do our best to provide a safety net service.”

NLHSD covers nine parishes and part of their services include mental health, including the Minden Behavior Health Clinic. Efferson said there is no way NLHSD can provide services to all these students in the clinics.

“It is our belief that many of them will go without treatment and without care,” he said.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls said the issue will be brought to the board in the May meeting when their attorney will present information along with an opinion on whether an alternative offered by Kristi Mayfield, a licensed professional counselor, could work.

Mayfield offered an alternative in which memorandums of understanding are issued between the school board and licensed professional counselors, which will weed out 80 percent of the bad, she said in March.

Mayfield has been working with Webster Parish students for many years, and when the policy revision went into effect, it excluded her from working with students at Central Elementary School, or any school in the parish. In March, several parents voiced their concerns and pleaded with the board to reconsider their decision and allow Mayfield back onto campuses.

Rawls said the issue they were encountering was people coming onto campus demanding a student be pulled out of class and the staff had never seen that person before. Or, a counselor might not make it that day and send someone else in his or her place.

While the change in the policy weeds out “the bad,” it is also affecting the good, he said.

He said their attorney has already issued an opinion but would not publicly state the opinion.

“It’s a very lengthy document, and it’s a lot of information,” he said.

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