By Nicholas von Wettberg
A critical aspect of school climate success, which is addressing the social and emotional needs of teens and high-school students through the support of mental health services, will be discussed at the Davis school board meeting on Thursday night.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listing suicide as the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 through 19, the need, perhaps, has never been greater to provide students assistance – in the form of school-based mental health services for conditions such as depression, anxiety disorder, and cyber-bullying/physical assault.
No group or community is immune to the impactful issue, as Davis residents continue to mourn the loss of a high school student who committed suicide only days into the new school year.
Currently, there are 14 members on the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) Student Support Services Staff, granting access to opportunities for adult interaction, trained observation and procedural acceptance.
Immediately following August’s tragic event, the district enacted a reserve plan, which concentrated on traumatic operational response, opening all lines of communication – by teachers, staff and counselors.
The intent was to give friends, families, classmates and schoolmates an instant platform to express their feelings of grief and sadness.
Similar to the process of many diseases, suicide forms in clusters, and one of the goals of the plan was to monitor kids with a previous history and those considered at-risk.
On the evening of the boy’s passing, DJUSD Superintendent Dr. John Bowes sent out an email to district parents, notifying them of the horrible news, with hopes that the ensuing weekend would grant them time to discuss it with their kids.
Laura Juanitas, the Director of Student Services, along with Prevention and Crisis Managers Joanna Littell and Natalie Zehender, will present trustees with the mental health services for students report.
The district services, listed on the report syllabus, are school counseling, special education mental health, crisis prevention and intervention, Davis Schools Foundation donations, and the Mental Health Intern Program.
The range of services provided, beginning with crisis prevention and intervention, are: the scope of the job is broad and narrow; they work with the Davis community, school sites, parents, families, and individual students; the role is prevention, intervention, and postvention.
Involved is a multi-tiered system of support, with the first level universal, impacting all students.
The second level of support impacts those targeted, or identified with emerging needs.
Tier three is defined as the intensive level, for those with acute needs.
One aspect of the crisis services is data support, backed by the YouthTruth Survey, which shows that 15.8 percent of district students in grades 10-12 experience suicidal thoughts.
The same data also shows that 31 percent of DJUSD students suffer from some form of depression.
As for risk and threat assessment, there are three stages: consultation, completion, and longitudinal data.
Provided though the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), the mission of the Mental Health Intern Program (MHIP) is to “provide access for students facing financial and cultural barriers to school-based mental health services,” which is “delivered by clinically supervised graduate/post-graduate level mental health interns.”
Homeless youth, foster youth, low socio-economic status (SES) kids, and English language learners are among the targeted populations eligible for the service, which requires referrals from site administrators, counselors and staff.
In the report, there is a list of MHIP components: building relationships through restorative practices; pre/post staff consultation and classroom observation; individualized counseling and intervention plan; clinical supervision aligned with the Board of Behavioral Science requirements; contributing to improvement of student mental health and climate.
In the 2015-16 school year, there were 24 LCAP eligible students that received MHIP services, with an average amount of nine sessions.
According to the data included in the report, most (88 percent) of the two-dozen kids that received the services were part of the low SES sub-group, with over half (54 percent) of them English language learners.
The data collected before and after support indicates a level of success for the program.
Of the parents/guardians surveyed, 100 percent reported a reduction in symptoms, 99 percent were satisfied/very satisfied with the counseling experience, and all of them would refer the services to others.
The outcome for students were similar, with 90 percent responding that they were satisfied/very satisfied with the experience and 100 percent of them said they would refer others to the program.
The school board meeting on Thursday is open to the public and begins at 7 pm inside the Community Chambers.