Mental health calls at San Diego schools on the rise

Mental health calls in San Diego schools are on the rise

San Diego police expelled 30 students last year for mental health reasons for 72 hours, more than double from the 2019/2020 school year.

SAN DIEGO — A youth mental health crisis is raging across the country, and that includes San Diego.

According to data obtained by CBS 8, San Diego police are responding to more mental health calls to San Diego-area schools than in previous years.

Figures show police removed 16 students from local elementary, middle and high schools in San Diego and placed in mental health custody in 2019-20. Despite the remoteness of local schools, the SDPD responded to 10 calls the following year. Last year it almost doubled from the previous two years and 30 students were taken away in the midst of a mental health crisis.

The mental health spike in local schools is similar to those seen statewide.

In August, hoping to address mental health issues caused by the pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom pledged $4.7 billion in public funds to “reinvent mental health and addiction services.” reads a press release.

Also in August, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond announced that his office had secured $20,000 in grants for 10,000 school counselors to help children struggling with anxiety, depression or self-esteem issues. self.

“This is an important moment,” reads an Aug. 4 statement from Thurmond. “Our students deserve and need more support, and we are grateful to have resources that we can use to help them. We recognize that it will take time to put many of these holistic services in place in order to that our students can heal, recover and thrive, and that is why it is important to get into this work immediately.

But the benefits of this and other programs are unlikely to be seen for some time, requiring local mental health advocates and nonprofits to invest more resources in helping youth in need. .

Walter Philips is the CEO of San Diego Youth Services, an organization that has provided an array of resources for children and youth in San Diego for over 50 years.

Philips tells CBS 8 that the numbers barely scratch the surface of bigger issues. Although calls for the SDPD have increased, it is important to note all other children struggling with mental health issues, not just those who have had to be physically removed from schools.

“At San Diego Youth Services alone, we’re just a nonprofit in the community that works with schools and the community around children’s mental health. We have served nearly 11,000 youth and families through our prevention and treatment intervention programs,” said Philips.

Data obtained by CBS 8 also shows that calls are evenly distributed across age groups, with high schools reporting only one more mental health call than elementary students and two more for children. colleges.

CBS 8 contacted State Superintendent Thurmond’s office for an update on grants for new school counselors, but did not hear back.

A California Department of Education spokesperson said:

“Recruiting mental health care providers to serve in our schools is a top priority for State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and the California Department of Education (CDE). Building on the bill Sponsored by Thurmond, SB 1229, the budget includes $184 million for teacher and school counselor residency programs and expands an existing $350 million school counselor residency program.

Additionally, Thurmond and CDE secured in-budget funding through the Golden State Teacher Grant Program which provides up to $20,000 in grants to individuals to serve at a priority school in California for four years, within eight years following the completion of a preparation program.

“It’s a huge step,” the spokesperson said. “Student mental health needs are ever-present — with COVID still among us, the threat of natural disasters from climate change, and two years of health, social, economic and political challenges that have affected Californians of all races, gender, income level and postcode – this often hits those who have been traditionally marginalized and underserved the hardest.”

The spokesperson added: “Student mental health will continue to be a priority as we build the systems and structure for the needs of today and for the future. As our work continues, we will be partnering with the California Student Aid Commission and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing to help launch an online application and website and help raise awareness.”

San Diego Unified said it is working to respond to the increase in calls related to mental health in district schools while recognizing that the district along with others across the country are working diligently to make same.

“While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact causes of the additional people seeking mental health services both nationwide and within San Diego Unified, the lack of providers, including licensed psychologists and clinicians mental health and school counselors, has only exacerbated the problem. Like many other school districts, San Diego Unified has seen an increase in calls related to mental health services over the past few years.”

To show how serious the problem is, a district spokesperson provided the number of calls from the same period this year compared to previous years.

From July 1, 2022 to November 20, there were 55 calls for mental health issues in district schools. This is compared to 46 at the same time last year and just seven in the 2020/2021 school year.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, San Diego Unified has made mental health awareness and care a district priority,” a district spokesperson said. “In addition to other measures, we have partnered with several community providers to expand access to onsite mental health services for students on all of our campuses, regardless of income or insurance status. Additionally, the district continues to partner with County Behavioral Health to offer resources, including drug and alcohol treatment programs, one-on-one counseling and family support.

WATCH RELATED: California Invests $4.7 Billion in ‘Children’s Mental Health Blueprint’

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