Faced with mental health crisis, school offers online therapists to students ages 13 and up

860 vacancies for Vermont mental health jobs

woman facing sideways
Photo by Joyce Dias on

by Ciara McEnaneny for Community News Service

MONTPELIER — The Montpelier Roxbury Public School district is partnering with Talkspace, an online therapy platform, to deal with the growing need for mental health services in Vermont, particularly among youth.

Superintendent Libby Bonesteel said the partnership came about after community members expressed concerns that there weren’t enough mental health providers in the area, especially for adolescents.

“We wanted to ensure that our community had easy access to mental health services,” Bonesteel said. “So Talkspace isn’t just for our students, but it’s also for staff members and their families, too.”

Online therapy provided by Talkspace is available for any student who is at least 13 years old, all staff members and their dependents. The service is funded through a federal pandemic-relief bill that sent $60,000 to the district for the partnership. That way, the service is free for users.

The district decided on Talkspace as a partner because of a recommendation from the school district’s community liaison, Nick Connor, who works with families and students who struggle to engage in academics.

“Talkspace was what we were looking for, and they could maintain confidentiality in the way that we needed them to,” Bonesteel said.

Representatives from Talkspace were unavailable for comment.

Meeting the mental health needs of students has been an ongoing problem for many schools across Vermont — and things have gotten harder in recent years. Jay Nichols, executive director of the Vermont Principals Association, said students have been experiencing more mental health issues since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are a lot more mental health issues for students, more serious for those dealing with trauma,” Nichols said. “The pandemic has not been kind to kids in terms of mental health, and our primary schools’ need for mental health services skyrocketed.”

Nichols said Vermont communities need to be taught about mental health issues, too, and that if Vermont’s students don’t receive the resources they need, they could be at risk for dropping out or dying by suicide.

“With mental health issues, we see higher rates of suicide and higher rates of dropout,” he said. “For kids who drop out, they are less likely to contribute to society in a positive, meaningful way.”.

Mental health services have been increasingly strained in recent years. The number of vacancies at state-designated mental health agencies and developmental disabilities service providers jumped from 500 spots in June 2020 to more than 860 in August 2021, according to a report earlier this year from nonprofit Building Bright Futures. And that number continued to increase.

Bonesteel believes that’s a trend Vermont lawmakers need to address.

“Schools need help from the legislative branch,” she said. “Legislators need to really think about the capacity for mental health services, particularly for our students here in Vermont.”

So far, only 30 people in Bonesteel’s district have signed up for Talkspace. But she hopes that trust for the program can be built through word of mouth.

She understands online therapy is a foreign idea to many, but accessibility was a priority for the district in setting up extra services.

“Anybody who needs mental health support, we want to make sure that they have access to it,” Bonesteel said “Where somebody lives should not be a limitation. Students and staff don’t live in an urban area, where there may be more providers, so we want to make sure that they are being taken care of mentally.”

Categories: Education

7 replies »

  1. There will be shortages of qualified professionals in various fields. There will be an influx of “woke” who are, largely, less qualified. Vermont is building an international reputation as “woke”. This will discourage both Right leaning people and the more sober elements who used to be on the Left but are now repelled by the current situation.

  2. It appears the State (Government/Corporation) has found many ways to circumvent parental rights. Wishy-washy, flim-flammy undermining of minor children is put in place and many, I’m sure, have no idea this is going on. I found the following from the Univerity of Vermont Center for Health and Wellbeing:

    “If you’re a student under 18 and are seeking care, please contact any of our offices for assistance or clarification of this law. We’re here to help!

    State of Vermont law dictates that any individual under the age of 18 is considered a minor and that in many circumstances is not capable of giving informed consent to their own medical care. In simple terms, this means that we need parent/guardian permission before we can treat a student until they turn 18. Once they are 18, permission is no longer needed. There are several important exceptions to this, as noted below.

    Minors of any age will be cared for in emergency situations which necessitate immediate treatment.
    Minors 12 years of age and older may give informed consent for treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, drug dependence, and alcohol abuse. If a minor requires hospitalization for treatment of any of these conditions, the parents must be notified of the hospitalization.
    Minors of any age may provide their own informed consent for the termination of pregnancy, or to receive medical treatment necessary to obtain contraceptive devices and medications.
    Minors of any age may provide their own informed consent for medical treatment related to rape, incest, or sexual abuse. Health care providers are required to report such incidents to the Department of Children and Families within 24 hours.
    Minors 14 years of age and older may voluntarily admit themselves to a hospital for mental health care if they provide informed consent in writing.
    Minors under the age of 14 years may voluntarily admit themselves to a hospital for mental health treatment if they provide their own written informed consent and a written application from a parent or guardian.
    Minors who are married or have ever been married; minors on active U.S military duty; and minors emancipated by court order may give informed consent to their own health care.
    If you’re a parent or guardian and wish to give permission for us to treat your student, you may contact any of our offices and give permission over the phone. Alternatively, you can download and complete this form, then send it to us.”

  3. …meanwhile a minor child in Vermont still needs parental consent for a tattoo or piecing and must wait until age 21 to purchase a handgun. And the same leftists who advocate their obscene sexualizing of children will argue that since the brain is still developing until age 26, no one under that age should be held responsible for any criminal acts.

  4. Well DUH! They pound into kid’s heads from Pre-K that the USA SUCKS, their parent’s values SUCK, Western Civilization SUCKS, we’re KILLING the planet, AND they have NO FUTURE, then WONDER why they FLIP OUT? And now “Online Therapy” so they spend MORE TIME on “Devices” so any hacker(s) can see ALL their innermost thoughts & actions? And “Schools need help from the Legislative branch”? YOU BET they DO! These union hack-filled public indoctrination insane asylums NEED to LOSE their stranglehold on the DOLLARS that should follow the kids to private/religious schools that actually SCHOOL their little minds. The public “schools” performance rates SUCK and yet they DEMAND ever MORE and MORE funding as test scores DROP? And haven’t these “smart-phones” been wonderful for addictive dopamine rushes in children? Maybe they just need MORE MEDICATION(s) along with all the “counseling”..How many YEARS of FAILURE will we TOLERATE?

Leave a Reply