OPRF High School expands school-based mental health services and supports

Oak Park and River Forest High School is taking steps to expand its mental health services with a new care coordinator position as well as a training fellowship through the University of Chicago. 

The part-time care coordinator position is thanks to a $50,000 grant that the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation awarded to DePaul University this past March. The university has already been providing care coordination in Oak Park Elementary School District 97; with the grant, DePaul can expand its services to OPRF. The position will be staffed by DePaul and shared with D97.

“The coordinator will work closely with our own outreach coordinator, Latonia Jackson, to assure that the families at most risk for not having access to fundamental services get the necessary assistance,” said Lynda Parker, director of student services at OPRF.

Some of those services include behavioral and mental health assistance, access to medical care, and housing and employment services.

In addition, the high school has been selected to participate in the 16-month Trauma Responsive Educational Practices (TREP) training fellowship through the University of Chicago. 

“The intent of the TREP fellowship is to develop a more trauma-informed climate and culture throughout our school community that will help our students, families, and staff thrive,” said Cherylynn Jones-McLeod, OPRF’s trauma informed school interventionist. 

A multidisciplinary team of six OPRF employees, including a school psychologist, an English teacher, and a dean, began training as fellows this month. The program will prepare them to coach co-workers as well as educators at other schools to meet the psychological, emotional, behavioral, and academic needs of students and staff members who are coping with trauma.

“I am most looking forward to developing a strategic plan to fully support our faculty and staff,” said Jones-McLeod. “Creating a trauma-informed school is not only concerned with students’ mental health and well-being; adults who need support and who are supported can better support students.”

Implementation of the TREP team’s strategic plan is expected during fall of the 2021-2022 school year.