'Students are struggling.' Newtown HS principal lauds on-staff mental health counselor at TeenTalk summit

The organization Kids in Crisis and the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering hosted a TeenTalk Summit in Stamford Tuesday to highlight the growing mental health crisis among students.
Newtown High School Principal Kimberly Longobucco says it's been "critical" having a mental health counselor on hand, thanks to the nonprofit Kids in Crisis.
"Students are struggling. Coming back to school is still a challenge. There are still students who have attendance issues and really have a hard time getting to school, and beyond that have really significant things happening at home at the same time," says Longobucco. "We do a lot of suicide prevention in our school district as does everybody, but we feel fortunate that we have caught some pretty serious accusations and thoughts in advance, and I do think Kids in Crisis has helped that."
The Kids in Crisis TeenTalk program started more than two decades ago and is now in 16 Fairfield County middle and high schools.
"The goal is to be there when the kid is experiencing a difficult time or just wants to talk to someone to prevent a difficult time, that's where our staff comes in," says Kids in Crisis Executive Director Shari Shapiro.
Shapiro says TeenTalk is funded through private donations and by the towns that utilize the program.
Although TeenTalk doesn't get state money, Shapiro says the mental health organizations that she works with do. That's why she is part of the new state Transforming Children's Behavioral Health Policy and Planning Committee.
"Our goal is to come up with the best practices and reach out for financial support," says Shapiro.
Kids in Crisis is in favor of counselors at elementary schools too. It's launching a KidsTalk pilot program in Greenwich this fall.