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US NEWS: Mental health expansion for Washington DC schools planned

Dec 19, 2019, US News: Mental Health Help Expanding at D.C. Schools https://www.usnews.com/news/healthiest-communities/articles/2019-12-19/dc-works-to-expand-mental-behavioral-care-to-all-public-schools Officials in the nation’s capital are partnering to provide more students with the holistic help they need to succeed…. Bazron says the expansion initiative, which gained steam in the 2019-2020 school year, builds on clinical services her department has provided for students like Burton in dozens of the district's schools. So far, the program has placed clinicians from 11 community organizations at 76 of 119 targeted schools that have been designated as high-need, with the aim of having services provided in all 119 by the end of the school year and in all of the district's 244 public and public charter schools – from preschool through 12th grade – by 2023-2024, Bazron says. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she allocated $3 million toward the school-based expansion plan in its first year, and increased that to $9 million for the 2019-2020 school year. David Grosso, who chairs the D.C. Council's Committee on Education, estimates the annual cost once the program expands to every school would increase to about $40 million, in order to provide direct services for students and sustain partnerships with community organizations and clinicians hired by Bazron's department. He says the mental and behavioral issues among D.C. youth reflect "the challenges in our communities with violence and with drug use." "These are young folks in our city who have not had the trauma that they experienced … adequately resolved, and they continue to experience more trauma, so a lot of them are in fight-or-flight mode where they don't really use their deliberate thought process to get out of a conflict," Grosso says. Bazron says the program will offer prevention, intervention and treatment services at school for both teachers and students, while also providing resources to address the needs of students' families…. Clinicians are trained to look at a student's health and well-being as a reflection of how his or her family is functioning, and whether the family has important resources available, such as stable housing or food. If there's a need, they may refer students and families to where they can access those resources or connect them with family therapy…. The need is there: Researchers have estimated that up to 1 in 5 children living in the U.S. experience a mental health disorder in a given year, and in 2017, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34 in the U.S. Half of all mental health illnesses start by age 14, according to the World Health Organization. In D.C., 16% of high school youth reported attempting suicide in the past 12 months – more than double the national mark of 7.4%, according to the 2017 District of Columbia Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Meanwhile, more than half of the District's children were living in single-parent families in 2017, and a quarter were living in high-poverty areas during 2013 to 2017, according to the 2019 KIDS COUNT report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Last year, more than 1 in 3 children under age 18 lived in families that had recently received public assistance through initiatives such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program….. "When a child comes in (to) pre-care kindergarten with a behavioral health challenge – either a behavior challenge or they've had some loss or they're not able to access curriculum or make friends – usually … we uncover something" that's tied to the problem, Parrella says. For example, "if we can support a family who's about to go homeless, and we see that by talking to them, we're not necessarily stigmatizing the child (by) saying they have a mental health issue – they're actually having a normal reaction to a very abnormal experience."… Chioma Oruh, a parent on the coordinating council who has two sons with autism in district schools, says the expansion effort is a "work in progress" but "extremely important." Clinicians are also able to provide services at students' homes, she says, which can further build community trust…. "Mental health is a part of overall health, and we've got to break the stigma. We've got to bring it out of the darkness so that young people and their families can get the support that they need," she says. Burton, the senior at McKinley Technology High School, says she hopes the district's push to expand mental and behavioral health care "doesn't die out."…