The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to survey the county’s 80 school districts on the need for mental health resources and support.
Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended the assessment, citing the need to coordinate resources amid an inflow of federal and state funding for K-12 schools.
“Each year, the need for effective student and youth mental health support continues to grow, with one in six youth reporting experiencing a mental health disorder each year. Unfortunately, half have reported not receiving any kind of treatment in recent history,” Solis said. “With the influx of funding and resources into the county’s schools to address mental health, it is critical that our departments be positioned to help provide technical assistance and support.”
Solis cited a study published late last year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finding that mental health-related visits to emergency rooms for children aged 5-11 had increased by 24% year-over-year, while visits for children aged 12-17 increased by 31%. Researchers suggested the increase might be due in part to the fact that many children ordinarily access mental health services through schools that were closed for much of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
More than $122 billion in federal funding has been appropriated to safely reopen K-12 schools and address the impacts COVID-19 has had on education, including by hiring more nurses and mental health professionals. State funding is also available for various programs, including mental health training for educators and students. Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who co-authored the motion, said collaboration is key.
“The mental health needs of our youth must be a priority,” Barger said. “Every available mental health support resource must be harnessed to help young people in our schools and their families get the support they need. It’s only through partnerships with teachers, school administrators and campus resources that we can effectively bridge the service gap.”
The Department of Mental Health and Office of Education are charged with designing a questionnaire on school mental health needs within the next 30 days, together with a plan for conducting the survey.