May 09, 2024

Collective Care Teams hold lobby day at state Capitol

Author: Ben Amey
Source:  NYSUT Communications
Collective Care Teams hold lobby day at state Capitol
Caption: Collective Care Team lobby day participants meet with Sen. Patrick Gallivan.

“We are not interchangeable.”

That was the message at the Collective Care Team Lobby Day at the New York state Capitol this week. School nurses, school psychologists, school counselors and school social workers and their statewide organizations are teaming up with NYSUT to highlight the important work they do in schools and how every member of the Collective Care Team is essential to student success.

“This is a dream come true, having legislators, administrators, and people understanding that together we work side by side to meet the needs of students,” said Lysa Mullady, a counselor at Copiague Union Free School District and a member of the Copiague Teachers Association and New York State School Counselor Association.

“A lot of politicians have no idea what you are actually experiencing in schools,” said NYSUT President Melinda Person, speaking with members of the organizations before lobbying began. “To get to hear from you is incredibly powerful. You are the best advocates for our students.”

Collective Care Lobby Day

The four organizations, the New York State School Counselor Association, the New York Association of School Psychologists, the New York State School Social Workers Association, and the New York State Association of School Nurses, are working with NYSUT, which represents most of their members, to come together to lobby for mental health and staffing changes to benefit student outcomes and educational success.

“We’ve developed the Collective Care Team with NYSUT and we know we are better together,” said Peg Barrett, past president of NYSSSWA and retired member from Lancaster Central TA. “We are a team who provide mental health and health services to students in schools.”

Collective Care Teams have been rising in popularity statewide, especially following students’ mental health challenges post-pandemic. Earlier this year, NYSUT highlighted the work being done in the Victor school district by the Collective Care Teams there. But the main focus on this lobbying day was to make sure that legislators understood that each member of the team is specialized, and that by working together, they can present the best outcomes for students and for staff.

“We want to focus on our scope and practice to do what we know helps students,” said Mullady. “If everyone is doing a little bit of everything, that’s when staff burnout gets a lot higher.”

“Working together in that team with individual children, we see what you’ve been able to do,” said Ron Gross, NYSUT Second Vice President. “It’s incredible.”

Members met with several legislators throughout the day, asking for their support on a number of bills aimed at helping to support the work of the Collective Care Team. Potential legislation included bills to require schools to employ at least one registered professional nurse in each school building, direct the State Education Department to report information on school counselors, social workers and psychologists currently employed in schools, and require SED to develop staff-to-student ratios for school health and mental health professionals in public schools. Some of those ratios can be as high as 1000-to-1 on the elementary level for school counselors, according to Mullady.

“Everything we do is to help kids,” she said. “If we can help the professionals be strong through legislation, protection through ratios, if we can give the mental health professionals a strong foundation, then we will be better able to serve the students.”

“I’m excited about what we will do together,” said Person. “Not only today, but in the future.”