#ParentPriorities for Mental Health Supports in the #DCSchoolsRecovery Statement of Beliefs

The Problem

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.
  • Trauma-informed training, social emotional learning programs, and access to mental health professionals are proven solutions to support students with mental health issues.
  • Program resources and additional mental health staff come with a large cost but have a proven return on investment.
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.

Our Solutions

  • Urgently ensure schools have access to mental health professionals
    • Estimated cost to fully fund the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) school-based mental health expansion: +6.4 million to expand to at least 80 more schools
  • Restore the cuts to community-based health providers that families who are most vulnerable to economic insecurity and trauma, who are disproportionately Black, brown, and low-income, rely on 
    • This would add $5 million in federal dollars because of the multiplier.
  • 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: $10.8 million (This is based on an estimated average cost $45,000 per school.)

Read the rest of the explanation in the full Statement of Beliefs written by parent leaders

  • The DME should provide consistent education system updates and guidance for parents across DCPS and public charter schools. 
    • So as not to overwhelm parents every week, these updates should be saved for important, substantive information that is clear, concise, and actionable (i.e. important date changes, opportunities to engage, or sharing resources).
  • A robust communication system should be put in place that utilizes multiple methods of informing families about system updates and ways to access resources and support. Methods should include robocalls/texts, mailers, emails, social media posts, etc. and be translated into multiple languages.

Read the rest of the explanation in the full Statement of Beliefs written by parent leaders

  • The DME should direct the appropriate education agency/ies to develop a standard of best 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:
    • Working with school leadership, instructional staff, mental health staff, behavioral support staff, and relevant medical staff (i.e. nurse, speech pathologist).
    • Engaging all stakeholders in conversations about mental health supports, services, and staff professional development.

Read the rest of the explanation in the full Statement of Beliefs written by parent leaders

  • Produce and Share a School Mental Health Landscape Analysis
    • 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.
  • Improve Coordination of Services and Care
    • The city should create 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
    • The city also should work together with all stakeholders to improve coordination and communication of services and support at the school level, including providing resources and support for school mental health teams and a school mental health team coordinator.
  • Develop a Clear Accountability System
    • 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.
  • Develop a Pipeline of Mental Health Professionals to Serve in Schools
    • 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 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. 
      • Open opportunities through increased partnership with neighboring jurisdictions.

Read the rest of the explanation in the full Statement of Beliefs written by parent leaders

Support Parent Leaders’ Vision for Mental Health Supports in the

#DCSchoolsRecovery Statement of Beliefs!

"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."
DaSean Jones
Ward 8 Parent Leader