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More mental clinicians for students could be on the way
mental health

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced a plan on Dec. 21 to recruit 10,000 new clinicians to provide for the mental health needs of California students. The plan centers on offering scholarships to encourage candidates to pursue careers in the mental health profession and serve in high-need schools and communities.

Thurmond will sponsor legislation that calls on the California Legislature and the Governor to invest up to $25,000 per applicant in scholarships for future clinicians.

“Even before the pandemic, California was experiencing a shortage of mental health counselors to serve California students, especially in rural areas that often have barriers to healthcare access,” said Thurmond in a press release. “The need for these clinicians has grown with the rise in depression among children in the U.S. in the pandemic period. Additionally, student mental health problems and conditions, including depression, anxiety and general distress, are increasing as natural disasters such as wildfires and floods affect more California communities and schools each year.”

Turlock Unified School District couldn’t confirm whether the district will be bringing onboard new clinicians, but noted it will be a part of the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) conversations this spring.

“TUSD will follow the (superintendent’s) plan as further details are provided,” said TUSD communications coordinator Marie Russell. “As standard practice in the development of TUSD’s LCAP, data and educational partner feedback will be used to determine needs and priorities for the 2022-23 school year to best support student academic and social emotional needs.”

The scholarship and recruitment plan will be part of efforts to reduce delays in the time it takes for California mental health clinicians to become licensed. Superintendent Thurmond intends to work to align efforts with those already approved by the Governor and the Legislature to expand mental health supports for California students, including a $3 billion Community Schools Strategy to provide health and mental health wraparound supports and a $4.3 billion strategy to provide mental health supports to youth from birth to age 25.

“This proposal creates a needed career pathway to provide California students with the counselors they need to overcome the trauma of the pandemic,” said CEO of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services Christine Stoner-Mertz.

California Alliance is a coalition of nearly 160 community-based organizations that provide school-based mental health services. They helped to develop the concept and will co-sponsor the legislation.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently issued an advisory calling for swift action to respond to a growing mental health crisis among youth that has worsened due to stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thurmond wants to help California lead the way in providing for mental health needs in schools.

“There is no more important effort that we can support at this time to help California kids. Let us come together to help our students heal, recover and thrive,” he said.