Anoka-Hennepin school district, local nonprofit partnership aims to help students with mental health, prevention services

The state’s largest school district is partnering with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to help support students with issues related to mental health, substance use and addiction.

According to Hazelden Betty Ford— a nonprofit provider of addiction treatment, mental health care, recovery resources and prevention and education services— the partnership with the Anoka-Hennepin school district will provide screenings and assessments, referrals to care, and support and prevention services to students throughout the district.

The program will also offer education and prevention services to school staff and families.

"We have found that many students benefit from formal, licensed, professional screening and referral processes, and that large districts like Anoka-Hennepin—where the counseling staff has so many students to serve—benefit from the additional help," Cindy Doth, an outreach manager at Hazelden Betty Ford, said in a statement. "Together, using virtual platforms, we’ll be able to connect with more students and families and provide the information, hope, healing and resources they need in this difficult time."

Through the partnership, licensed clinical professionals from Hazelden Betty Ford will conduct school-based screenings and assessments of high school students who may be experiencing issues related to substance use and mental health.

According to the organization, the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed, nationally, to student depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, as well as increased substance use. The changes in remote learning and structures outside of school have also affected students and their families, the organization reports.

"Anoka-Hennepin understands that a coordinated approach to supporting mental health and substance use concerns for students provides the best results—and having Hazelden Betty Ford as a partner provides a level of support and expertise to make a real difference for our school community," Colleen O’Neil, a chemical health prevention specialist with the Anoka-Hennepin school district, said in a statement. "Ensuring students and families have the resources and support they need is essential to removing any barriers to educational success."