The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Commissioners approve new mental health job description for schools


October 22, 2020

Wahkiakum County commissioners approved creation of a new behavioral health position to work in local schools when they met Tuesday.

Commissioners handled a variety of other business and set a schedule for working on departmental budget requests for 2021.

The new position should allow the new therapist to provide substance use disorder service and link students to mental health therapists when needed.

"Health and Human Services (H&HS) has been struggling to fill a couple gaps in the behavioral health program," reported Tristan Wozniak, county mental health program director. "The currently open mental health therapist I job has not attracted successful candidates who are able to stay for a length of time, and the assignment of a staff to handle the school based collaboration has also been hit or miss."

H&HS staff consulted with Wahkiakum School District Superintendent Brent Freeman, and they developed a proposal to place a behavioral health specialist who would be licensed to provide substance use disorder treatment to youth and serve as a connection to mental health services, including providing some of the services themselves.

It's a complicated position, commented H&HS Director Chris Bischoff, for providing youth services includes working with parents and families and school staff as well as the client.

One issue, Wozniak pointed out, the proposed position's job description isn't included in the county's union contract job descriptions and would need to be created. The union has agreed to the addition of the new job description, and with commission approval, it would be created.

The unfilled mental health specialist I salary is budgeted and would be the same amount as the new position, Wozniak said, so there would be no financial impact to the H&HS budget.

Commissioners voted to sign a memorandum with the union to create the position.

In other business:

--East Sunny Sands resident Mike Beutler thanked the board for its efforts to have dredged sand placed along the eroded beach to protect homes and other property. He pointed special thanks to commission Chair Dan Cothren, who had been the board's lead on the project.

"Thank you, but it takes a whole board," Cothren said. "There are still other parts to do and other issues to take care of."

Beutler asked if the beach nourishment was on a permanent plan or if the long permitting process would have to start again when the current permits expired in 10 years.

Cothren replied that the board wouldn't let the program expire and that the county is working to have the disposal sites included in the upriver ports' shipping channel maintenance program.

--Commissioner Mike Backman took up an issue he'd raised at previous meetings--urging the board to bring together personnel from the health department and Johnson Park to develop protocols for making the community center in Rosburg more useble for Westend residents.

Cothren and Commissioner Gene Strong agreed.

--The board will hold meetings with department heads to go over 2021 budget requests starting Tuesday of next week.


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