September 15, 2021
Superintendent Tony Thurmond Gathers Panel of State Leaders to Build Robust and Historic Levels of Mental Health Services
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond hosted a webinar on Wednesday for local educational agencies (LEAs) and education partners to discuss how schools can support students, families, and communities by addressing and investing more in mental and behavioral health services.
State Superintendent Thurmond was joined by a distinguished panel of state leaders for the “Investing in Mental Health: A Roundtable Discussion” webinar that featured conversations about how LEAs, educational leaders, and policymakers can build what Thurmond said has never been done before: creating and implementing the most robust and historic level of mental health programs throughout the state.
“We have to support our students and educators,” said State Superintendent Thurmond. “This is the beginning, not the end, and we will continue to build the most robust system that we’ve ever seen to support students. Our schools are often the center for our students and their families. When they’re hungry or hurt, we must attend to their needs so we can support their learning and well-being.”
California Department of Education (CDE) Deputy Superintendent of Equity Dr. Daniel Lee co-facilitated the event, and panelists included State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda); Stephanie Welch, Deputy Secretary of Behavioral Health from the California Health and Human Services Agency; Superintendent David Gordon from the Sacramento County Office of Education; Associate Superintendent Dr. Christine Olmstead from the Orange County Department of Education; Alex Briscoe, Principal of California Children’s Trust; Toby Ewing, Executive Director of the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission; Chris Stoner-Mertiz, CEO of California Alliance of Child and Family Services; and Mara Madrigal-Weiss, Executive Director of Student Wellness and School Culture at the San Diego County Office of Education.
“We appreciate Superintendent Thurmond for jump-starting this conversation,” Deputy Superintendent Lee said. “We want you to walk away with information that will help you understand the initial framework that the state and all partners here are understanding around mental health right now.”
The guest speakers provided specific strategies for helping schools with mental health services; what types of mental health initiatives are available at the local and state levels, such as Medi-Cal; and how LEAs can provide mental health support, access, and opportunity for all.
Senator Glazer opened the session by sharing that legislation and Governor Newsom have committed to to providing $4 billion over the next five years to create new behavioral health systems for young people starting from birth to age 25. He added that another $200 million will go specifically for mental health student services to fund school and county partnerships. “I know that’s not enough, but hopefully it’s an important start to help support you in implementing programs that you know can help our young people,” Senator Glazer said. “We have a responsibility as policymakers to make sure those funds are used in the most effective and efficient way possible.”
To highlight work being done already at schools across the state, Executive Director Madrigal-Weiss discussed how the San Diego County Office of Education is identifying issues, determining what resources are most needed, and building toward providing mental health awareness and literacy for not only students but staff and administrators. Superintendent Gordon explained goals for Sacramento County that include eventually providing a mental health clinician at all 300 campuses in the district, as well as the creation of a student-led Youth Mental Health Board that will advise Sacramento County Office of Education on best practices. Associate Superintendent Olmstead presented an overview of the CDE’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports and how it helps schools in Orange County access academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning in a fully integrated system of support for the benefit of all students.
Before ending the virtual meeting, Deputy Superintendent Lee invited those who tuned in to attend future webinars focused on addressing mental health, with the next event slated for October. State Superintendent Thurmond is raising the bar and challenging the CDE and partners to lead efforts to invest more into mental health than ever before by bolstering social-emotional and counseling resources, championing community schools, creating blueprints for expanded outdoor learning and summer programs, and supporting programs to help students recover and accelerate their learning.
“This is the moment, and it requires all that we can give,” State Superintendent Thurmond said. “We are experiencing one of the toughest lifetime experiences we’ll ever face. But we can build back stronger and build systems that will make it better for our students than before in how they learn and how we support them academically and socially.”
The webinar included American Sign Language interpretation service, and a recording is available on the CDE Facebook page .
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100