(Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

SF to expand mental health programs at schools

A $3.5 million budget allocation will fund programs for the next two years.

The city of San Francisco will expand mental health programs at its public schools to help kids deal with stress, depression, suicide and bullying among others issues, Mayor London Breed announced Tuesday.

According to Breed, she’s included $3.5 million in the city’s budget to fund the programs for the next two years.

“Middle school and high school can be a difficult time for a lot of students, and this funding will support programs that help students navigate and deal with the challenges they face in a healthy and safe way,” the mayor said in a statement.

“Students who can access wellness services tell us that they feel better about themselves, get along better with family and friends, are better able to cope when things go wrong, and come to school more often,” San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Vincent Matthews said.

SFUSD’s current Wellness Initiative serves more than 15,000 students at all of the district’s 19 high schools, providing them with skills and tips on dealing with complex issues, like trauma and substance abuse as well as sexual health.

The new money, however, will help expand the program and provide additional clinical mental health services at schools that historically serve marginalized communities, where the need for such services may be higher. The expansion will take place this fall at all high schools and select elementary and middle schools.

Currently, all SFUSD middle schools only have one nurse and one social worker to deal with mental health and wellness.

The new funding will allow some middle schools and high schools to hire a wellness coach, trained to provide counseling, case management, and restorative practices. The funding will also be used to expand clinical mental health support at 21 of the district’s middle schools, providing one-on-one clinical therapy services for their students.

Additionally, with the funding, schools will be able to collaborate with community-based organizations for providing mental health services to students.

Daniel Montes, Bay City News

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