The Santa Clara County Office of Education was awarded a $6 million grant from California's Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission on Thursday to create wellness centers on school campuses. The development of the wellness centers will provide mental and behavioral health services to students.
"This grant supports efforts to increase mental health prevention, early intervention, and services for students and their families," said Sherri Terao, interim director of the county's 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."
About 7.5% of school-aged children nationwide have serious behavioral health disorders but only 17% of them receive mental health services as part of an individualized educational plan, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. One in seven U.S. children had a mental health condition, and half were untreated, according to a 2019 JAMA Pediatrics study.
In Santa Clara County, just 2% of students receive mental health support services, according to State Senator Jim Beall.
"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," said Beall.
COVID-19 has exacerbated already-high rates of anxiety, depression, disruptive behavior, sleep disorders, substance abuse and suicidal ideation in the county's students. Calls to California suicide prevention lines have risen 40% since March. And from March 2019 to 2020, calls to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations disaster distress hotline rose 891%. "We're going to see increased stress-related cognitive impairment and diseases," said Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California's Surgeon General. She said addressing children's mental health is more important now than ever.
"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 school Superintendent Mary Ann Dewan. "Increased access to counselors addresses this need, removes 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."
The grant was part of the Mental Health Services Act of 2019. Beall was a proponent of the bill and helped secure $50 million in one-time funding and $15 million continuing funding for school mental health services.
Beall has long advocated for mental health services and authored two related bills. One, SB 12, allocated $15 million to create drop-in youth centers across the state for 12- to 25-year-olds struggling with mental health issues.
“It is rewarding to see the years of hard work come to fruition," Beall said. "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."