It Takes a Village to Address Mental Health Issues
August 25, 2016 | Written By: Healthy Schools Campaign
This May, HSC proudly announced the winners of our third annual School Nurse Leadership Award. It’s an award that acknowledges the tireless commitments that school nurses make, and is supported by School Health Corporation and MAICO Diagnostics. The five winners and five honorable mentions selected from across the country represent school nurses who are reimagining the role they play in school health and wellness, students’ academic success and the health of the larger community. In this blog, we speak with award-winner Judy Morgitan.
Each and every week, school nurse Judy Morgitan meets with the mental health team in Perkiomen Valley School District in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The district serves 5,900 students near Philadelphia. Morgitan also serves as the school nurse in Perkiomen Valley High School, which serves 1,890 students.
At the age of adolescence, mental health is a huge concern for students. Morgitan is one of the integral components of the mental health teams in the district and the high school, identifying students who are struggling with their lives, which is often demonstrated by frequent visits to the school nurse. Students come to school not only facing academic and social challenges, but also mental health challenges, Morgitan says.
Morgitan is trained for the student assistance program and also youth suicide first aid. This training gives her the tools to both detect the smallest symptoms of a mental health concern but also translate her findings to the team, allowing them to locate the correct avenue of care for the student.
Serving as both the school nurse in the high school and on the mental health team helps Morgitan assist students on two levels: mental and physical. “Mental health can have a huge impact on students’ physical health,” she says. For example, Morgitan might know a particular student makes frequent visits to the school nurse, and a counselor might know that this particular student is having an issue with bullying. During the mental health meeting, an individualized plan can be created to ensure this student is getting all the help they need.
The district takes this collaboration one step further and hosts a meeting every month that includes high school administration, children and youth services, community police, state police, social workers, school psychologists and school nurses. “We come together once a month to discuss what’s happening out in the community and in the school,” Morgitan says.
Morgitan also serves as the district’s Health Service Department Chairperson. In this position, she plays an integral part in guiding the school district and school board in the creation of policies and procedures. Areas Morgitan has worked on include student and faculty wellness, administration of medication, district safety, emergency medical treatment and medication.
As a full-time school nurse and a leader in the district and state, Morgitan has her hands full. We commend Morgitan for exemplifying the role school nurses can play as mental health advocates and congratulate her on being a recipient of this year’s leadership award.