Two Mental Health Professionals to Join Staff to Support Secondary Students
October 14, 2019
This year Dripping Springs ISD is implementing an initiative to provide enhanced mental health support to our students.
One step of the plan was the addition of mental health professionals to our counseling staffs. A half-time SEL (social-emotional learning) counselor was added to all four elementary schools at the start of the year. The next step was to add a full-time licensed mental health professional at Dripping Springs High School and another to split time between the two middle schools. Both of those hires have been made and they will be starting in their new roles soon. These additional professional staff members will work closely with counselors to address student mental health needs and support students in crisis.
Stephanie Opiela will be the new mental health professional at Dripping Springs High School. She brings more than 10 years of experience to DSISD, having served children and families in Hays, Caldwell, and Guadalupe counties through direct counseling and management of counseling programs. Her most recent employment was with Guadalupe Children's Advocacy Center as the Clinical Director. She has worked with educators, counselors, and law enforcement agencies to support campaigns against sexting, cyberbullying, and child abuse. Ms. Opiela holds a Masters of Arts in Professional Counseling and is a certified counselor.
The new middle school mental health counselor is a familiar face stepping into a new role. Kim Bird has been the guidance counselor at Sycamore Springs Elementary since the school opened; she also has served on the district’s School Health Advisory Council (SHAC). Ms. Bird worked in in Austin ISD for 13 years as a Licensed Mental Health Professional where she served students at all grade levels; she also trained staff in trauma-informed classroom practices. Previously she was a therapist at the Austin Child Guidance Center, and Clinician Supervisor for the Austin Police Department Victim Services. Ms. Bird holds multiple credentials in areas of counseling, therapy, and educational administration.
At the elementary level, Raynie McLaurin serves Dripping Springs Elementary and Walnut Springs Elementary. The SEL counselor serving students at Rooster Springs Elementary and Sycamore Springs Elementary will be replaced in the near future; Amy Guerra has been in that role since the beginning of the year but will be moving into Ms. Bird’s position at SSE.
In addition to the new staff joining the district, a major undertaking this year has been the implementation of Mental Health First Aid training. So far, more than 500 staff members have completed the training. The district’s goal is for every DSISD employee to receive the training this year.
DSISD's mental health initiative is supported by the Dripping Springs Education Foundation.