Erin Andrews desire to become a social worker came about after seeing a family living beneath a bridge.
Andrews saw the family while traveling with her family to a ball game. One of the children, a little girl, was using a sack of potatoes as a pillow.
“It crushed me and that was the start of it,” said Andrews.
She earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Lock Haven University and began working at Dickinson Center in Coudersport in December 2000. After having twin sons, her goal was to work in a school district; those types of jobs are a rarity in a rural area, until her supervisor called and said there was a way to do it part-time. That’s when Andrews began offering mental health services as part of the emotional support services for students at Austin High School and Coudersport Elementary School.
When staff at Austin approached her about being able to provide more services in the school, they came up with the idea of a partnership between the school district, Dickinson and the Potter County Human Services Department to provide services in the school whether students have insurance or the ability to pay.
“There are no cracks to fall through,” Andrews said.
She stepped into that position this past fall. During the school day, she helps students with a variety of problems: everything from family problems, peer issues, depression, suicide, gender identity, homelessness, parents in jail, drug abuse and more.
“There are so many things that are significant to our youth at this time, you see everything,” Andrews said.
The pilot program offers multiple tiers of service.
“Not every kid in school needs outpatient services. Some kids might be having a really bad day and just need someone to help them process,” Andrews said. “There might not necessarily be a need for consistent outpatient service. Some kids. come in for check-ins. They talk to me and talk things out. Other kids we see on a short-term basis and other kids I see almost weekly or on a bi-weekly basis.”
Other districts in the county noticed, too. In December, Coudersport began the process to fill a similar position; Oswayo Valley is following suit.
Andrews gets referrals from parents, students, teachers, grandparents and staff.
“I thought coming to Austin full time would be easier,” she said. “What I found were a lot of kids I was not reaching before. I don’t know if we’re meeting the needs of all the kids, but we’ve definitely increased services so it is better than it was.”