MCPS high schools implement new student mental wellness departments


Bridge to Wellness

Image from Bridge to Wellness

High schools across MCPS are implementing wellness centers in collaboration with the program, Bridge to Wellness (BTW). The new wellness centers will provide many mental health services such as therapy, mental health check-ins, mentoring, recreational activities, possible SSL opportunities, counseling, and psychoeducation. At PHS, the Wellness Center is across from room 22 and the offices of the staff are housed in the Media Center. Students may be referred to the BTW staff by a school counselor, the school’s Social Worker, or complete a self-referral.

The high schools that have a Bridge to Wellness Program are schools that do not already have a Wellness Center. Every high school wellness team should consist of a MCPS social worker, a mental health specialist/therapist, a youth development specialist, and a care manager.

The social worker will accept drop-ins and sessions with students who are having a rough day and need someone to talk to.

“The goal is just to make sure that we are meeting the needs of the students with the rise in mental health difficulties recently,” said Ms. Tegan Peterson, Poolesville High School’s social worker.

Petersen started at PHS last spring and has been seeing students steadily this year.  Some students have standing appointments with her, but drop in sessions are also available.

The Mental Health Specialist, Ms. Olivia Reyes, provides individual supportive counseling,  psychoeducational groups, support groups, and consultation. The facilitated groups support students in the area of anxiety, self-esteem, communication, and stress management. Other services include support for healthy relationships, managing academic stressors, relationship conflicts, behavioral concerns at home or school, and grief support. Reyes clarified that while regular school counselors can offer mental health support, their jobs carry several other roles that help manage and support a student’s academic life.and success. The wellness staff is solely focused on the mental health wellbeing of the students and what therapeutic strategies and interventions are needed to support those students in need. Especially those who are uninsured or underinsured. 

“We’re like that added factor, mainly focusing on mental health,” said Ms. Olivia Reyes, “because there’s a huge mental health crisis that we’re in, and the need for mental health support is extremely high right now. That’s why they started the Bridge to Wellness program this year.” 

Mr. Navid Mehrabkhani, is the school’s Youth Development Specialist and will provide students with mentoring, group activities, recreational activities, sports activities, and student check-Ins.   

“We basically are the bridge,” said Mehrabkhani, Poolesville High School’s Youth Development Specialist. “Our goal is to support and promote the wellbeing of our PHS students and really provide a safe space for them to grow .”

Each school’s team also has a Care Manager. The Care Manager will provide assistance for those students and families in need of resources such as food, housing, medical and mental health services and benefits outside of school. Currently at PHS, this position is vacant.