The state is trying to expedite school mental health counseling credentials

Faced with a lack of school mental health counselors, the state’s Department of Education is trying to bring 10,000 more professionals to campus at a time when federal health officials are calling for action to address the growing mental health crisis of young people in the country.

The efforts of counselors, who require legal approval, would be aimed at attracting clinicians through lending and deferment, scholarships to offset training costs in schools, and potentially reducing the time it takes psychotherapists to get licensed, according to Supt. From the public Tuition Tony Thurmond said Wednesday during a visit to Washington Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles. Thurmond said he was in talks with lawmakers and hoped a measure estimated at $ 250 million could be introduced in the coming weeks.

“I can’t think of anything more important at the moment when it comes to dealing with the trauma that students and families have experienced,” said Thurmond. “But the reality is that there is a shortage, there are just not enough counselors in many schools and many communities, in cities, suburbs and in the country.”

For years, educators have warned of a shortage of mental health professionals. ONE 2018 report from researchers at the UCSF Healthforce Center found that by 2028 the state will have 41% fewer psychiatrists than needed and 11% fewer psychologists, licensed professional clinical counselors and licensed clinical social workers than are needed to meet the state’s health needs if current trends continue.

In December, US surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy released a rare public opinion expressing concern about a sharp rise in anxiety and depression among young people. The report offered recommendations on what communities – including schools, parents, and technology companies – can do to address this.

Murthy’s advice includes a recommendation to help expand the workforce for mental health professionals.

“In the school environment, governments should invest in building a pipeline of school counselors, nurses, social workers and school psychologists,” the recommendation says.

Dr. Jonathan Goldfinger, a pediatrician and general manager of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in Los Angeles County, spoke to Thurmond about the impact the pandemic has on children and how it has led to increased school misconduct.

“We are seeing the effects of trauma that literally get under the skin of children and manifest in behaviors in our classrooms, at home, in our communities, in our clinics that we have never seen before,” said Goldfinger. “We had a national emerging emergency or pandemic of mental illness in our youth in the United States because we had not previously invested in our workforce. We really treated mental health differently than physical and acted like it wasn’t that important even though mental health is the foundation of physical health. “

Loretta Whitson, General Manager of the California Assn. the school counselor said the proposal was “a good first step” but cautioned against sending “less skilled people” in a hurry to deal with the crises.

Aspiring mental health clinicians typically go through more than six years of training and extensive clinical work before moving to full-time work, Whitson said. She said preliminary certification, which allows students to help out in school settings, could help reduce demand in schools.

“There might be a system in which they support these advisors,” Whitson said. “As long as they don’t replace the fully trained.”

Efforts to improve access to mental health careers by alleviating financial pressures are welcome, Whitson said, as the problem of expanding the workforce will remain as long as schools see a need.

“There is a mental health crisis where we have to put all of our energy into our schools to help children,” said Whitson.

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