A new school-based clinician will be available to help Dublin City School District high school students with substance abuse and mental health issues.

A new school-based clinician will be available to help Dublin City School District high school students with substance abuse and mental health issues.

The clinician was made possible by a new $71,113 contract with Syntero approved by the Dublin Board of Education.

Although the clinician is employed by Syntero, district officials were able to interview candidates and make the selection, said Chris Ondrus, the district's director of student services.

Melanie Toth, school-based clinician and substance abuse specialist, was slated to begin working in the district Oct. 17.

Ondrus said he anticipates Toth will be based at a district building and serve students at Dublin Scioto, Dublin Coffman and Dublin Jerome high schools and West Bridge Academy.

"The needs of our kids are going to drive our service," Ondrus said.

According to the contract with Syntero, Toth's responsibilities will include providing school-based substance abuse disorder and mental health counseling, such as counseling, prevention, facilitation of student groups and research-based intervention among other activities.

Ondrus said he believes there is an increase in the number of students who require services for either mental health or substance abuse.

Results from the Ohio Healthy Youth Environments Survey, which the district administered in fall 2015 to students in grades 7 and 8 and 10-12, helped officials move toward providing more mental health services.

According to results from the most recent survey, 23 percent of students said they were anxious, Ondrus said.

Sixteen percent self-reported depression and 13 percent said they seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year.

Nearly 5,000 students participated in the survey, Ondrus said.

"We need to be able to do more for kids and families," he said.

The district already has an agreement with Syntero, Ondrus said.

Through ADAMH grant funding, the district uses Syntero to provide prevention, education and intervention services for referred students. Last year Syntero had the equivalent of four full-time counselors serving the district's 20 buildings.

This year the district is working to increase the service to the equivalent of six full-time counselors.

Students receive free counseling through this district service. If students require additional support, Syntero can refer families to services outside the district.

Sarah Harrison-Mills, director of youth and prevention programs with Syntero, said providing services in a school system helps students access important care.

"Our goal is to try to equip students early with positive, healthy coping strategies," she said.

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