Cherry Creek School District partners with online mental health platform

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AURORA | On top of its on-site mental health resources the Cherry Creek School District will now be partnering with online platform Hazel Health to provide virtual therapy for students.

The district follows neighboring Aurora Public Schools, which began contracting with Hazel in January to provide mental health care for students.

Hazel Health is an online therapy provider that contracts with licensed professionals across the country to provide virtual physical and mental health care. Along with APS, in Colorado it also works with Denver Public Schools and a Colorado Springs school district.

At its Monday meeting, the Cherry Creek board of education approved the district’s purchase of Hazel Health’s services for the 2022-2023 school year.

According to documents on the Cherry Creek board of education’s website, the provider will work with middle and high school students with the potential to expand to elementary school students as well. The contract is for one year with the option to be extended and costs $423,000, which comes from the school’s general fund.

Hazel has been touted as a partial solution to the shortage of mental health providers in the region, particularly those who work with children and teens. In a case study of its work in APS, Hazel said that in a five-month period it served over 300 students and provided over 1,800 sessions.

“This significantly helped to reduce district wait lists, and make sure that students on a waitlist who needed faster care were able to receive it,” the case study said. “Throughout the spring, Hazel supported 9 crisis cases, where Hazel was able to make an immediate intervention, create a safety plan, and find local support for a student in need. For hundreds of other students, Hazel’s short-term mental health care served as a bridge until availability with one of the on-site school counselors became available, or until they were able to meet with a local provider.”

The partnership with Hazel Health is the latest in Cherry Creek’s ambitious strategy to combat student mental health issues, which also includes the development of a mental health day treatment center that will be run in partnership with CU Anschutz and Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Superintendent Chris Smith said that the district will also be putting posters in schools with a code that students can scan to get a list of resources within the district and around the community for mental health help. Some of the posters will be placed in bathroom stalls so students can still access them if they are uncomfortable doing so publicly.

During the board meeting, several board members and attendees spoke about September being national Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“It’s not a stigma, it’s an issue,” Smith said of mental illness. “Our students are willing to talk about it, and it’s important that adults are too.”

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