With a national conversation happening around teen mental health, two new mental health nurses hired for students in a Sudbury school board come not a moment too soon, according to one trustee.

Dena Morrison of the Rainbow School Board said she's frustrated it took so long for the two mental health nurses to start working with students.

"We know the need is great," she said. "The supply, though, of supports is very limited to nurses serving our entire student body, but at least having two we'd like to get them started."

The nurses were hired and trained through the Community Care Access Centre and come as part of the province's Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. Funding for the mental health nurse program is good for at least the next three years.

Morrison and the board of trustees wrote a letter to the CCAC earlier this month about the nurses.

She said she thinks it was that letter, as well as pressure from other school groups, that led to them starting in schools.

‘Two worlds colliding’

It took time to iron out the details of the project, explained Sue Cecchini, who oversees the mental health program for the CCAC.

"We're developing this program. This program started with absolutely nothing. School boards and health … are like two worlds colliding," Cecchini said.

"So even to negotiate for the nurses to go into schools took a number of weeks."

A total of 16 mental health nurses have been hired for secondary schools in northeastern Ontario.

Cecchini said students can meet with the nurses through referrals from parents, teachers, or the students themselves. The nurses will also deal with more serious issues, like helping students who are on medication and who may have been in the hospital with mental illness.

"We're at least now going to be able to at least start getting some of our students’ needs addressed and getting a better indication of the exact extent of the need that's out there," Morrison said, adding the program is aimed at helping nine secondary schools with the board.

She said she hopes they can eventually expand to include elementary level students, too.