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Falls school leader honored for focus on students’ mental health

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

The Niagara Falls City Schools superintendent is being recognized for promoting mental wellness for students.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says the New York State Office of Mental Health honored the Falls city school leader Tuesday in Albany.

“We, in the school district, are really trying to push the mental health agenda and know that our kids are only going to be successful if we help them and we focus on our mental health,” remarked Mark Laurrie, superintendent, Niagara Falls City Schools. 

You might say Falls Schools Superintendent Laurrie is working to be an innovator in education, to lift students up from the difficulties and stresses they face in their lives. He was honored as part of the Office of Mental Health's "What's Great in our State 2018". It's an annual event celebrating both people and programs that are making a difference in mental health for children.

Laurrie's wellness initiatives for the Falls school district includes Mental Health First Aid and Drug/Opiate Use Prevention.

“We’ve been able to train our first 150 teachers in mental health first aid and the teachers are really are armed so to speak with learning the signs and signals of a child who’s maybe experiencing some stress and also helps them to recognize what resources are available and how to respond to students that are in those types of distress,” Laurrie explained.

Laurrie utilizes partnerships and outside organizations and agencies to create collaboration.

“Our teachers have embraced it. Our teachers have asked for more of it. The next phase of this really is to train parents and hopefully students in the mental health first aid curriculum – they want to know. Our students at Niagara Falls High School have a very strong voice, they are very aware, they want to help their peers. They want to support each other,” Laurrie remarked. 

In citing Laurrie for his work, the State's Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Anne Marie Sullivan recognized Laurrie for making what she called a “profound impact” on children and families in the city of Niagara Falls/

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