Explanation for slow pace to add mental health counselors

Oconee public schools are committed to adding professional personnel to counsel students who have suspected mental health issues, but the county trustees last night received an explanation why the process takes time. School administrators say, thru an agreement with the state’s regional mental health center, a total of seven counselors divide time at schools across the district. Some of those counselors are employed by the district; others are employed by the Anderson-Oconee-Pickens Mental Health Center, with part of their salaries paid by the district. Lisa Simmons, assistant superintendent for instruction, says an eighth counselor starts her training this month. According to Simmons, plans call for the district to have a total of 10 counselors in place by the 2020-21 year. Simmons says rural areas face difficulty to attract and retain mental health counselors. District Two trustee Joe Rukat expressed concern last night of being told by Walhalla area schools that counselors serve those schools only a couple of days a week and, at times, are pulled away to other locations.