MADISON, AL (WAFF) - Hundreds of local students are getting help for mental health issues, and their needs are being met with 12 mental health professionals.
The Enrichment Center is a nonprofit counseling organization that operates throughout the Tennessee Valley, and works with students at Madison and Huntsville City Schools systems.
Director Sharon Willis said her organization is seeing 327 students in Madison City Schools alone and 550 between both districts.
The organization has 10 full-time and two part-time counselors who travel between schools to provide services. Sessions will students traditionally last 30 minutes to an hour.
If all counselors split the students evenly, they’d each be responsible for 46 students.
“They can’t see a child everyday. They have to prioritize their time, they may be seeing a student every week, twice a week if they need it,” Willis said.
“We work with students who are dealing with anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, ADHD, autism, stress-management, just all kind of different things social-emotional."
She said the students who meet regularly with counselors are not “in crisis” but seeking help coping with a problem. However, the counselors do assist with any crisis events at their school.
“Of course if there’s a student that’s dealing with suicide ideation, that’s going to take precedence over seeing a student about anxiety,” she said.
Willis said she is in the process of writing a grant to add an additional counselor to the rotation.
The organization remains reliant on grants, city funding, district funding and donations for its operations.
Madison City Schools Superintendent Robby Parker said he expects the district to increase its investment in The Enrichment Center as its population grows.
“The stresses and the pressures on the students today are enormous, and we recognize that. We want to give them any help we can give them,” he said.
The district increased the presence of Enrichment Center counselors this school year.
The CDC estimates 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years have diagnosed anxiety.
At that rate, 825 students in Madison City Schools (of its 11,300) and 1,758 students in Huntsville City Schools (of its 24,000) are suffering.