PANAMA CITY - Bay County school district officials are taking a new approach toward students caught with illegal drugs. They're wrapping up negotiations with the Life Management Center to provide drug counseling for students that may have a problem.
Bay district school officials are taking steps to help students that have drug abuse problems.
"We just don't believe our school counselors have enough time and or experience dealing with that so we're trying to take it a step further and get some professional help for these students," said Bill Husfelt, Bay District Schools Superintendent.
The school district is partnering with the Life Management Center to provide drug counseling. It'll cost the district $15,000 to fund the program for 25 students at 8 counseling sessions a piece.
"In talking to them and providing those counseling sessions, we'll also be able to possibly identify other mental health issues that we could maybe provide them some support on," said Tricia Pearce with Life Management Center.
School board members expelled 24 students last year for drug abuse, and 5 so far this year.
"But just because it's not a large number doesn't mean that those students don't need some kind of help and so this is just something we're trying to do to see if it really work and will help," said Husfelt.
Until now the primary method for dealing with drug issues has been using the Sheriff's Office drug sniffing dogs and pursuing charges. School officials say that will no longer be an option.
The district and the Life Management Center have partnered before, but never for a contract where administrators refer students to them.
"It is an opportunity for us to get there with the kids and be able to possibly identify something that could help them with the rest of their life," said Pearce.
The two sides are still working on a student referral process. Superintendent Husfelt says the program could go into effect as early as next week.