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FCPS to offer high school students free virtual mental health services starting in April

Fairfax County Public Schools (file photo)

Fairfax County high school students will soon have access to free mental health services. Starting April 10, Hazel Health will provide students with weekly virtual therapy sessions at no cost to families.

The school system’s website says Hazel’s therapists can help students with mood or behavior changes, anxiety, social skills, bullying, family relationships, and academic stress.

In a statement to FFXNow, the school system said it included funds for telemental health services “to reduce access barriers for youth requiring mental health services beyond those provided by FCPS school-based mental health professionals.”

Last year, the Fairfax County Youth Survey showed that students were more depressed than at any other time in the past decade. The report also found that specific groups, such as female, Hispanic, and LGBTQ students, were more likely to experience depression.

The data mirrors a nationwide issue. Last year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported poor mental health among teens and children nationwide, with the pandemic compounding existing challenges like poverty and bullying.

FCPS said it contracted Hazel following a competitive process that began last spring and that the company previously provided services to several large school divisions.

The school system allocated $500,000 in its current budget to hire the company, which was initially expected to launch a pilot program in January but got delayed, WTOP previously reported.

“Hazel is HIPAA and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)-compliant, and their services incorporate practices that encourage parent engagement and ensure student safety,” the school system said in its statement.

How to access services:

  1. Parents permit FCPS to share basic demographic information with Hazel
  2. Request mental health services by visiting the Hazel website
  3. Provide consent for Hazel Mental Health Services on the Hazel website

According to FCPS, the teletherapy will be available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“Therapists will be locally-licensed clinicians; 50% of whom identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC); and 40% of whom are bilingual,” FCPS said in a newsletter earlier this month. “More than 15 languages are available.”

Hazel will help connect students to long-term care if needed after therapy sessions are completed.

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