California pours millions into the recruitment of mental health counselors

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond announced the 2022-23 state budget includes $184 million for teacher and school counselor residency programs. That is in addition to an existing $350 million investment toward school counselor residency programs. The investment helps fulfill the requirements of Senate Bill 1229, which calls for enough funding for up to 10,000 grants for postgraduate students studying to be a mental health counselor.Students can apply for awards of up to $20,000 through the Golden State Teacher Grant Program. State investment into youth mental health was spurred by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some school districts along the Central Coast say they’ve been building out resources for years. In 2014 the Pajaro Valley Unified School district was reeling from two student suicides that occurred two months apart. The tragedy helped spark efforts to develop more mental health resources throughout the district. Today PVUSD has 70 counselors and mental professionals over 33 school sites. Included are 16 psychologists, 15 mental health clinicians, 19 social, emotional counselors and 20 academic counselors. The district has no vacant mental health roles. In addition, PVUSD hired Chrissy Maclean, the district’s first counseling programs coordinator, in response to the burgeoning need left by the pandemic. “One of the best ways right now to efficiently use our resources, we are really leaning in and focusing in on small groups,” Maclean said. Santa Rita Union School District and Monterey Unified School also report they have filled nearly all the mental health roles that their budget will allow. Dr. Summer Prather-Smith, the director of parent and family engagement for SRUSD, says that in response to the youth mental health crisis spurred by the pandemic, the district updated its suicide prevention protocol. In an email, Marci McFadden, MPUSD’s chief of communication and engagement, said, “Each school site currently has at least one full-time mental health professional supporting students. Some of the district’s largest school sites have two.”Santa Rita Unified also unrolled a new feature on the school app. It allows students to send a direct alert to school administration and a counselor if they need emotional support.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond announced the 2022-23 state budget includes $184 million for teacher and school counselor residency programs. That is in addition to an existing $350 million investment toward school counselor residency programs.

The investment helps fulfill the requirements of Senate Bill 1229, which calls for enough funding for up to 10,000 grants for postgraduate students studying to be a mental health counselor.

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Students can apply for awards of up to $20,000 through the Golden State Teacher Grant Program.

State investment into youth mental health was spurred by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some school districts along the Central Coast say they’ve been building out resources for years.

In 2014 the Pajaro Valley Unified School district was reeling from two student suicides that occurred two months apart. The tragedy helped spark efforts to develop more mental health resources throughout the district.

Today PVUSD has 70 counselors and mental professionals over 33 school sites. Included are 16 psychologists, 15 mental health clinicians, 19 social, emotional counselors and 20 academic counselors. The district has no vacant mental health roles.

In addition, PVUSD hired Chrissy Maclean, the district’s first counseling programs coordinator, in response to the burgeoning need left by the pandemic.

“One of the best ways right now to efficiently use our resources, we are really leaning in and focusing in on small groups,” Maclean said.

Santa Rita Union School District and Monterey Unified School also report they have filled nearly all the mental health roles that their budget will allow.

Dr. Summer Prather-Smith, the director of parent and family engagement for SRUSD, says that in response to the youth mental health crisis spurred by the pandemic, the district updated its suicide prevention protocol.

In an email, Marci McFadden, MPUSD’s chief of communication and engagement, said, “Each school site currently has at least one full-time mental health professional supporting students. Some of the district’s largest school sites have two.”

Santa Rita Unified also unrolled a new feature on the school app. It allows students to send a direct alert to school administration and a counselor if they need emotional support.

Contributed by local news sources

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