LPS engages community partners to support student mental health

The phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” highlights the philosophy Lincoln Public Schools is taking to provide quality mental health services to its students.
The school district enlists a network of skilled mental health professionals to help support the well-being of students in all grade levels. LPS employs many therapists, psychologists, counselors and mental health practitioners at elementary, middle and high schools. It also works with multiple community partners to ensure students have access to a wide range of services.
LPS has contracted with mental health service providers for the past 20 years. The school district has worked with Family Service Lincoln since 2004 and began connecting with HopeSpoke in 2010. Blue Valley Behavioral Health and Morningstar Counseling and Consultation have both started their LPS partnerships within the past ten years.
LPS Social Work Coordinator Andrea Phillips said the local alliances have helped many students and families. Their important work is being highlighted in May during Mental Health Awareness Month.
“Student mental health needs have increased over time and providers in the community have become harder to find,” Phillips said. “Many caregivers also have barriers to accessing outpatient therapy for their child such as transportation, work schedules and financial needs. We contract with these agencies to provide needed therapy to students during their school day to help them be well and successful in school.”
Emma Stewart, a behavioral health therapist at Family Service Lincoln, provides services at Lincoln High three days each week and visits with 18 students. She said it is essential for them to receive positive care early in their lives.

“We see a wide variety of things, and our goal is really to support the whole family unit,” Stewart said. “Kids who come to therapy are seeing things like depression to anxiety to life stressors, difficulties in relationships, difficulties in the classroom that could have some underlying mental health reasons for that. Our goal is always to work with the parents and the youth to support them all around.”
Dr. Anitra Warrior has also helped many staff and students at LPS with her knowledge and expertise. Warrior is president of Morningstar Counseling and Consultation, which connects patients with more than a dozen therapists, psychologists and licensed independent mental health providers. Morningstar served 37 students in the 2021-22 school year and 74 the following year. Therapists are currently working with 28 students.
In addition to helping youth, Morningstar also provides a wealth of services to school employees. Warrior said including staff members in the treatment process has resulted in good outcomes.

“We are aware of all of the students they’re working with, the homework, the lesson plans, everything they’re having to put together, so we try to minimize anything that we’re asking from them, but they are so vital when it comes to treatment,” Warrior said. “That collaboration that we’ve been able to have with students and teachers, with maintenance workers, with office associates, with everyone in the building. I believe that we have literally saved lives with the work that we’ve been able to do as a group.”
Youth mental health aid training has been one of the services Warrior has provided to school employees. Teachers, bus drivers, counselors and other adults have used the Morningstar program to help students at their schools.
“With youth mental health first aid, it really helps adults be able to identify when a student appears to be under mental stress, how to respond and tell someone else who is able to support them,” Warrior said.
Stewart said it has been encouraging to see the growing acceptance of therapy among students. She said multiple high schoolers have greeted her with smiles outside her office, and she has overheard many public conversations in hallways about the importance of addressing mental health concerns.
“I think this generation is very open and comfortable with therapy and supporting friends who are getting that opportunity,” Stewart said.
Stewart said a growing dependence on technology and social media has affected many youth. In addition to being a source of health issues such as cyberbullying and social anxiety, technology has also impacted sleep cycles and knowing how to build face-to-face relationships.
“Before, you would go home and you’d just be home, but now you can be bombarded with information 24/7,” Stewart said. “Teaching safe online behaviors, healthy coping skills that don’t involve technology, trying to regulate sleep schedules, that’s always a big part of what we’re trying to work on.”
Warrior and Stewart both said it was fulfilling to watch students achieve their goals through the therapy programs.
“It’s so amazing to see the children do the work, to see them understand the way their brain works, and to see the family know how to respond,” Warrior said. “We can facilitate the learning, but they are doing the work. When you see them doing the work, there’s nothing like it. It’s such a good feeling.”
“I remember once I had a kid who finished their graduation and they came into the office, and as they were leaving, the principal (Mark Larson) was in the hallway, and she said, ‘Mr. Larson, Mr. Larson, I just graduated from therapy!’” Stewart said. “It was awesome. It was what we want to hear.”

Learn more about our school social workers and their services at https://home.lps.org/socialworkers
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Published: May 8, 2024, Updated: May 8, 2024

From left, Dr. Anitra Warrior and Emma Stewart are two of the community partners who are helping LPS students. Warrior is president of Morningstar Counseling and Consultation, and Stewart is a behavioral health therapist at Family Service Lincoln. LPS is engaging with multiple agencies that are supporting students and staff with mental health services.