March 8, 2022
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Announces Support for Bill that Helps Recruit 10,000 Mental Health Clinicians for California Schools
SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and Senator Mike McGuire (D-North Coast) today joined mental health leaders and professionals to urge support of a bill that would provide grants of $25,000 to aspiring clinicians who commit to serving two years in communities of high need. Seeking solutions to lower student-to-counselor ratios in schools is not a new effort or one unique to California. However, through Senate Bill (SB) 1229, California is pursuing an ambitious plan to help recruit 10,000 professionals to help support the growing mental health needs of students. The California Department of Education (CDE) is proud to partner with Senator McGuire on this priority legislation.
“During this pandemic, our students have experienced extreme levels of depression, we've seen a doubling in the percentage of Black students who have expressed suicidal feelings, and we know there’s an increase in hospitalizations for young people and adults,” said Superintendent Thurmond. “California has had enough mental health professionals to provide services to about 30 percent of those who needed it even before the pandemic, and those challenges were even greater in rural communities. We've got to build out our school workforce in many places: teachers and classified staff and certainly mental health clinicians in order to meet the needs of our six million students.”
“Students in all corners of this great state are struggling with pandemic-related mental health impacts,” said Senator McGuire, author of SB 1229. “Young people have seen incredibly traumatic times the past two years and there is no doubt that we’re seeing an increase in need related to students and their social and emotional well-being. The Golden State is experiencing a behavioral health crisis among our youth while at the same time, a shortage of trained mental health professionals is making matters even worse.”
Approximately eight million Californians, a majority of them from communities of color, live in areas that have a shortage of behavioral health professionals, said McGuire. Those who receive the grant must commit to a minimum of two years of practice as a mental health professional either in a school district or youth-serving community organization. Funding for the grants will come from the state budget.
“SB 1229 is a vital piece of legislation that will support the development and expansion of a more diverse mental health workforce focused on addressing the crisis that our children and youth are facing right now,” said Christine Stoner-Mertz, CEO of California Alliance of Child and Family Services. “Thank you, Superintendent Thurmond, for your steadfast efforts to be a leader on this bill and budget request, and to always put the needs of California students first.”
Last week, Superintendent Thurmond provided testimony at a State Assembly hearing, at which he declared an urgent need to recruit mental health clinicians. His effort to recruit 10,000 clinicians is part of a larger plan to address workforce challenges in the education sector. It is also a centerpiece of his effort to help students heal from the trauma of the pandemic, recover academically, and thrive as they prepare for the future. Thurmond has simultaneously appointed a workgroup on addressing education sector workforce shortages, which is working to address compensation, training, and recruitment strategies to help offset education staffing shortages in a state that serves six million students.
An archived broadcast of the full press conference can be viewed on the CDE Facebook page .
# # # #
Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100