Mental Health Supports and Trauma-Informed Training for All Schools
We are not providing the appropriate mental health supports or services to help students with the challenges they face both inside and outside of school.
- 1 in 5 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
- Almost half of the children in DC have had at least one Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and 22 percent of children have experienced more than one.
- If unaddressed, these factors can result in chronic physical health issues and lower academic performance as well as contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline or even lower life expectancy; this is especially true for children with 6 or more ACES.
In order to create an education system full of great schools that are supporting the mental health needs of our students, we have identified a set of priorities that we believe our city leaders should make a reality.
- Urgently ensure schools have access to mental health professionals
- Estimated cost to fund the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) school-based mental health expansion: $16 million to expand from 119 schools to 179
- Ensure all schools have the resources they need to provide high-quality, culturally-affirming and responsive, and evidence-based social emotional learning programs as well as trauma-informed training and restorative practices for all staff at each school.
- Estimated cost: $10.6 million ($45,000 per school x 236 schools)
- Increase the base Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF) to the recommended adequacy level
- The UPSFF is currently set at $10,980 which is a gap of $80 million. We recommend this gap be closed over two years: minimally 4% in FY21, and 3% in FY22.
- Increase the at-risk weight in the UPSFF to the recommended adequacy level
- The at-risk weight is currently set at 0.225, or $2,437 per student, which is a gap of $68.8 million.
- The city should ensure that a comprehensive resource map of what mental health supports currently exist in each school and corresponding gap analysis is put together and made public to help create a comprehensive and long-term plan for the future.
- These findings should be used to hold our city accountable for providing adequate supports as well as inform the allocation of funding mental health supports across schools and agencies, through a variety of opportunities beyond solely competitive grant application processes for schools.
- The DME should direct the appropriate education agency/ies to develop a standard of evidence-based practices on how to consistently and meaningfully engage parents, families, and communities in the development of the school culture and the implementation of mental health supports.
- Since these best practices should improve the work of schools, rather than cause undue burden or distractions from educating students, it is essential that this work be done in partnership with schools.
- These evidence-based best practices should include a student support team that:
- Includes school leadership, instructional staff, mental health staff, behavioral support staff, and relevant medical staff (i.e. nurse, speech pathologist)
- Engages all stakeholders in conversations about mental health supports, services, and staff professional development.
- Provides mental health resources and learning opportunities for both students and their families – including parents, guardians, and caregivers – so that support can continue outside of the school day.
- The city should set standards and create effective systems for agencies to collaborate in order to enhance the quality and level of care in schools, including but not limited to DBH, the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE), District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), public charter school Local Education Agencies (LEA), the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB), Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Health Care Finance (DHCF), Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), and the Department of Health (DoH).
- Coordination should also include practices that focus on:
- Improving mental health staff retention
- Appropriate mental health staff-to-student ratios
- Prioritizing consistent services beyond one-time crisis response
- Clarity regarding which agencies/institutions are accountable for effective implementation
- Coordination should also include practices that focus on:
- The city also should work together with all stakeholders to improve coordination and communication of services and support at the school level, include providing resources and support for school mental health teams and a school mental health team coordinator.
- The DME and DMHHS should develop clear, publicly transparent, and robust accountability systems for any agency/organization providing mental health supports in schools. This includes, but is not limited to, groups providing technical assistance for social emotional learning and trauma-informed training as well as those that are providing mental health services in schools.
- At minimum, these accountability systems should require agencies and community-based organization partners to:
- Demonstrate the effectiveness and proper use of funds
- Evaluate how well agencies are coordinating with one another to enhance the quality and level of care in schools and implementing practices for engaging parents, families, and communities in the development of the school culture and the implementation of mental health supports
- Demonstrate how family and student voices are included in the evaluation of mental health services, staff, and systems
- How well schools are retaining mental health staff
- This work must ensure structures and policies are in place to eliminate barriers to supporting students with disabilities.
- The city should take steps to partner with surrounding colleges and universities to incentivize mental health professionals to serve in our schools.
- This work should especially prioritize recruitment and retention of mental health professionals that look like and come from the communities they will serve.
- To ensure these mental health professionals are able to work in our schools, the city should work to ensure qualifications and requirements between partners, city agencies, and schools are aligned in the best interests of kids and families.
Support the #MentalWellnessWins Campaign
"We must UNDERSTAND the impact of trauma on a child's brain and the influence of this child's brain development on their learning and social emotional growth.
We must ACKNOWLEDGE that learning challenges and behaviors often result from trauma, and develop plans and best practices to address these issues in trauma-sensitive ways.
We must RECOGNIZE how trauma-informed care enables children with ACEs to overcome challenges and learn in a safe, supportive environment, and develop strategies to help children avoid re-traumatization."