Missoula school abruptly ends contract with mental health care provider

2012-12-21T06:30:00Z 2014-10-19T08:07:56Z Missoula school abruptly ends contract with mental health care providerBy BETSY COHEN of the Missoulian missoulian.com
December 21, 2012 6:30 am  • 

A seemingly abrupt end to the contract with mental health support services at Franklin Elementary School has upset several parents who are concerned about the insensitive timing of the change.

This week, the school announced the decision to terminate its contract with Full Circle Mental Health, thereby relieving the four mental and behavioral specialists who have been working closely with students at the school.

The transition is disruptive and worrisome, said Libby Knutson, one of the concerned Franklin parents.

For some of the students, the therapists are intricately involved in their lives every day at school, helping them be successful academically and socially, Knutson said.

To give students just three days to say goodbye to important and helpful people in their life is insensitive at any time, Knutson said. But to make this part of the students’ holiday break at a time when mental health services and school safety are on everyone’s minds because of the Connecticut school shootings is just not right, she said.

Among Knuston’s many worries is the time when students transition back to school after the holidays.

“That is such a stressful time for everyone, and the students need to come back to something familiar and safe,” Knutson said. “Considering what just happened in our nation, I think it’s not a good time to shake up mental health support anywhere.”

Although the decision appeared to be a sudden one, it was made with great deliberation throughout the fall, said Karen Allen, regional director of teaching and learning for Missoula County Public Schools.

MCPS has been working in collaboration with several community mental health providers to provide support to most of the district’s schools.

The collaboration is part of a statewide effort called the Comprehensive School Community Treatment program.

As the focus of mental health needs and behavioral programming change, so does the relationship with contractor providers, Allen said.

“We have contracts with these organizations, and on occasion we end a contract and begin a contract with another provider,” Allen said. “That’s what happened at Franklin.”

Allen was not at liberty to discuss the details behind the decision to end the contract with Full Circle, but said she is helping Franklin’s administrative team find another provider and will have new support staff in place when school resumes after the holidays.

“As we plan for the future, we will develop strategies that are more efficient,” Allen said.

“I respect the fact that parents may be feeling uncomfortable and have many questions about this, the major one being, ‘How is this going to affect my child and how can my child move forward in a positive way?’

“Those are our questions we are working on as well, and we want the transitions to be as seamless as possible. Unfortunately, change happens in ways and at times we wished worked out differently.

“We want to have the best team for the site.”

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at bcohen@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. drewtazy
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    drewtazy - December 22, 2012 11:28 am
    If this was a decision that was being considered for a while, why was there NO collaboration and problem solving about concerns this administrator claims to have had so they all could have round tabled and reached a better solution than this? Did any of the teachers get to voice their concerns? I bet this all revolves around getting a different agency in at a cheaper cost and to heck with the fallout these kids will endure. Saving nickels while causing such havoc is not justified.
  2. firefly
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    firefly - December 22, 2012 10:42 am
    I think that this decision at this time is terribly insensitive. That aside, I don't understand why Franklin School would take more special needs kids than they had resources or paras for in the first place, and now two years into that (after having fired, retired, or reduced the hours for the paras to be available) mental health support services are completely cut out. I have to agree with ChiefCharloParent- after years of having to deal with Roberta Stengle in one way or another I think MCPS made a terrible choice even allowing her in any role. In my opinion she has made many bad decisions, has been very insensitive to families and their needs and further I think she has totally ruined Franklin School and it's "small neighborhood school" image.
  3. MCPS-Parent
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    MCPS-Parent - December 22, 2012 6:32 am
    As much as we parents think something is wrong with MCPS, nothing will be done and the whole controversy will be swept under the rug. Sad to say this always happens. MCPS can do as they please and administrators become an expert on children , but do not actually work with our kids. Should we not ask the people like teachers and mental health personnel about progress of our children? The administrators of MCPS seem like a waste of tax dollars to make abrupt changes in the lives of our children for one thing only, to justify their worthless job positions. I say get rid of them and Apostle mob. They should be voted in and voted out if they arent doing the job.The only people that I say are important for our children are the Teachers and Mental Health agencies.
  4. MCPS-Parent
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    MCPS-Parent - December 21, 2012 6:47 pm
    As a parent of a child in the district, and considering recent events, I am astounded that MCPS would make a decision like this regarding children with mental health needs. Some questions come to mind. How long have the Full Circle teams been associated with the kids at Franklin Elementary? What does the Teachers Union have to say about the abrupt decision of the current Franklin Administration? What are the reasons why this mental health agency was released? Shouldn’t this be about the kids and not a contract? If this was the right decision, why are parents so upset? If parents are upset, is this a decision that was supported by teachers as well? If this was a decision the administration was considering for a while, why were the teams let go so abruptly? I think these are answers the tax payers deserve to have answered.
  5. Helen mo
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    Helen mo - December 21, 2012 6:21 pm
    What excellent timing! Good grief!
  6. anonymous201288
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    anonymous201288 - December 21, 2012 4:15 pm
    It appears that no one ever consider getting things done while school is out for the summer months. Why is this ?
  7. drewtazy
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    drewtazy - December 21, 2012 4:02 pm
    There is few things worse than a power driven egotistical person. They do not care who they knock down or run over to get their own way. These kids are in the wake of her destruction.
  8. drewtazy
    Report Abuse
    drewtazy - December 21, 2012 3:59 pm
    It is obvious that the person that made this decision has not a clue the time and consistent effort that is involved with establishing a rapport with a child and especially a child with special needs. Progress with these children often is slow at first and once they feel they can trust the person working with them to be there.... there can be huge strides forward. I feel sad for these kids coming back after Christmas break, change and transition is difficult enough for them as it is. The person that has made this thoughtless decision to remove those working with them clearly does not have the children's best interest at heart. Which makes me think this was all based on some kind of ego power trip. What a Christmas present this is!
  9. zoolamb
    Report Abuse
    zoolamb - December 21, 2012 11:34 am
    Given the "regional director" in this case I'd I have to agree with ChiefCharloParent. We have a dearth of understanding and supporting Special needs students. Not to mention the problems housing of CSCT programs in portable classrooms at the middle schools separating the kids from their support network when most needed.

    We have lost a number of fine special educators and para-professionals the last few years in "early retirements" and out and out resignations because they had the audacity to advocate for their students under the Allen group. (some of the others aren't too great either....)

    If the district thinks one of the other contractors will be an improvement (WMMHC) they better think again........
  10. ChiefCharloParent
    Report Abuse
    ChiefCharloParent - December 21, 2012 9:01 am
    In my opinion MCPS made a poor choice by allowing Roberta Stengal to return to leading a school. Having a special needs child at Paxton during her "reign" wasn't a walk in the park. It's not a suprise that Franklin is the school having issues...and I doubt that it was the providers fault.
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