Perry Mason Blankenship on Limitation of Vital Services in McDowell County

This year, the excitement and possibility of digging in and learning through experience as a school psychologist intern has been hindered by the COVID-19 situation. 

The school system I am working with is in the southern part of West Virginia, located in the rural coalfields. McDowell County Schools already had its challenges, from the economy to drug addictions, with over 50% percent of students living with someone other than their biological parents, and all schools being 100% free breakfast and lunch. The economic hardships are seen in the day-to-day living of students and the lack of hope detectable in their actions and speech. McDowell was once thriving. Now, it’s among the poorest, and the whiplash effect of this change for the county’s residents can be felt in the atmosphere during engagements with students and school staff.

The impact of COVID-19 has taken another blow at an already frustrated and overwhelmed culture. The poverty of this area has hindered the families from being able to support their students as schools moved to remote/virtual learning. To consider tele-health assessments or zoom meetings to conduct IEP’s or eligibility conferences is impossible, given the lack of internet, the families lack in understanding technology and of sufficient devices for such services. All this has impeded the school psychology internship experience, to say nothing of students’ experience. 

The only service to have flourished under these circumstances is tele-health individual counseling. Some of this has been made possible through the ability to utilize phone calls to meet demand. These moments have opened the door for us to help numerous students who were wrestling with trauma, suicidal ideations, and other mental health related issues. While the assessments that students are missing, such as those for special education services, are vitally important, the services that we have been able to provide continue to have real significance in the students’ lives. 

Perry Blankenship, M.A., M.DIV., MBA, M.Ed., LPC, ALPS
McDowell County Psychologist, Intern
Marshall University 
WV LPC # 2202
VA LPC # 0701009556
Coordinator of Attendance, Student Services, School Nutrition, and Mental Health Services

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