PRESS RELEASE: New School Wellness Centers Are in the Future for Santa Clara County Students

July 23, 2020

New School Wellness Centers Are in the Future for Santa Clara County Students

Santa Clary County Office of Education Awarded Mental Health Student Service Act, Grant

SAN JOSE, CA– The Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE) has been awarded $6 million from the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission (Mental Health Student Services Act of 2019) to provide multifaceted mental health and behavioral health services through the development of wellness centers on school campuses. Creating wellness centers on campuses provides students with safe and supportive options and promotes emotional health, school engagement, and positive connections with peers, teachers, and families.

"The creation of these wellness centers for students marks a critical step in putting students' mental health first in Santa Clara County. This funding is particularly timely, given the rise in needed services due to COVID-19." Senator Jim Beall SD-15

Even before the pandemic, there was an extreme shortage of mental health services for students. Approximately 700,000 students, 7.5 percent of all school-age children, have a serious behavioral health disorder, but only 17% of the students receive mental health services part of their individualized education plan (IEP). In Santa Clara County, the number is even less, with only two percent of all students receiving mental health support services. "I hope to see this model further expanded throughout the state," said Senator Beall.

Senator Beall was instrumental in securing $50 million in one-time and $15 million on-going funding for school mental health services under the Mental Health Student Services Act (MHSSA). A long-time mental health champion, his work includes fighting for more mental health services for students on and off-campus. These efforts culminated in the adoption of two of his bills, SB 12 and SB 582(2019), in the 2019-20 State budget. SB 12 allocates $15 million to establish drop-in youth centers throughout the state to provide another option for youth 12-25 struggling with mental health issues.

Mental Health for children is more important now than ever with the additional stresses resulting from the pandemic. "We're going to see increased stress-related cognitive impairment and diseases" and probably increased toxic stress, said Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California's Surgeon General. The need for mental health services is far from diminishing; nearly 1 in 7 children in the United States have a mental health condition and half go untreated according to a study published last year in the Journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Mental Health problems already affect one in seven children, and rates go up during community crises. Including anxiety, depression, disruptive behavior problems, sleep disorders, substance abuse, and suicidal symptoms. COVID-19 has only compounded the gap in mental health services.

California calls to suicide prevention lines were up 40 percent in March, people citing job worries and inability to attend AA meetings, among other stressors. Calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's disaster distress hotline increased 891 percent from March 2019 to March 2020.

"There is an overwhelming need for mental health services and other school-based campus support, which contributes to the healthy development of young people," said Santa Clara County Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Dewan. "Increased access to counselors addresses this need, remove the stigma around managing mental wellness, and demonstrates the importance of the long-term impact of multifaceted academic, behavior, and mental health support for students."

"This grant supports efforts to increase mental health prevention, early intervention, and services for students and their families," said Sherri Terao, Interim Director, County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Services Department. "With this funding, we will be able to continue our efforts to provide services at school sites, create wellness centers, and provide mental health training to educators."

"Attending to the well-being of our students is a priority in our schools. Without a feeling of safety, many students are not able to engage in or benefit from the learning opportunities afforded them by their teachers. Providing school-based mental health services is a complex and worthy task that allows students a chance to receive the support they need to further their academic and social-emotional development. I have personally witnessed positive transformations from students who have received these necessary supports. Anything we can do to support and sustain mental health resources helps us create a strong community." Nancy Sullivan, Director of Educational and Special Services Freemont Union High School

Beall added, "It is rewarding to see the years of hard work come to fruition. We have been working on improving mental health for youth for decades, and while we can celebrate today's accomplishment, the work does not stop."



Andrea Bonilla

(916) 651-4015