By Neshmia Alam
DAVIS, CA — On Monday, the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) was given the opportunity to present the current state of its mental health support systems to the Social Services Commission (SSC) of Davis.
According to Cara Messmore, DJUSD’s Director of Student Support Services, the “intention through this presentation is to give [the SSC] an overview of different ways we provide mental health support in DJUSD.”
Prevention & Crisis Manager Annette Preciado and Homeless/Foster Liaison Camica Edwards both joined Messmore’s presentation.
Messmore began by giving an overview of the various mental health support services that DJUSD currently offers and explained that they function using a “multi-tiered system of support” which serves as a “framework for all the interventions we provide.”
She elaborated that the system works using three tiers, “[Tier] one for all, [Tier] two for some, and [Tier] three for the few.”
Messmore also shared that there are school counselors on every site in DJUSD whose purpose is to “provide one on one counseling, they provide small groups, [and] they certainly provide crisis intervention.”
Regarding the various mental support services, Messmore emphasized that “collaboration and consultation are critical between the classroom and the office,” but “there is no replacement for teachers who are trauma informed.”
To stay informed on the mental health status of the school district, DJUSD participates in certain surveys. According to Messmore, these include the “annual Youth Truth Survey” as well as the “California Healthy Kids Survey.”
Afterward, Annette Preciado presented DJUSD’s own social emotional support form, which is a form that allows students to be provided with support quickly and efficiently. She explained that this form is a tool that “a parent or even a staff member can use to refer [or] request mental health services for a student.”
Preciado also shared information about Care Solace with the SCC. Care Solace is a separate resource available on DJUSD’s website and, according to Preciado, “helps families connect to mental health services and providers.” She went on to say that Care Solace also “walks [families] through the entire process” of finding and using mental health resources. This walkthrough serves to alleviate the stress that families may face when seeking emotional and mental support and also serves as a path through which “a counselor can make a referral directly.”
Next on the list of resources presented to the SCC was CommuniCare at Davis. Through the program, there are “clinicians on-site available to provide individual therapy to students.” Although there are only three clinicians providing these services through Davis CommuniCare since this is the first year the program has been implemented in Davis, according to Preciado, “the goal is to continue growing.”
She also discussed the Auburn Davis Center for Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The Auburn Center and DJUSD have a “long-standing relationship,” and through their Compassion Project have created a “workshop series for parents focusing on adolescent mental health.”
Next, Camica Edwards discussed health and wellness for teens who experience homelessness or are in the foster system. She shared that for students who are in the foster system, “it’s difficult to process how little control you have.”
Her work includes collaborating with about 30 families in the district regarding access to education. As for why she works towards increased access to education in the district, she stressed that this work is important because, “when parents can’t cope, caregivers can’t cope, [and] guardians can’t cope, it really does trickle down to the kids.”
To put a student’s issues into perspective, Edwards asked the SCC to “imagine each individual student coming with their narrative, their own narrative” and to consider this when allocating resources to DJUSD.
She explained that the district’s “resources and time are limited,” and therefore requested that the SCC “either bring the services to them or just make them easier to access.” As a result of the lack of resources, Edwards and the rest of the mental health and support staff at DJUSD explain that there is often a lack of access to services for students.
SSC Vice-Chair Rachael Fulp-Cooke began questions and comments by sharing her own experiences with the school district’s mental health system, saying that when she was contacted by the district in regards to her own daughter, “the fluidity of [mental health services] is just incredible.”
Commissioner Perez echoed this sentiment and shared her own experiences with her three children. She told Messmore, Preciado, and Edwards that they are “just incredible” and that within the SCC, “you have parents here, you have fans.” She urged them to ask for the resources they needed, saying “tell us what you need.”
Commissioner Vaitla also requested that DJUSD reach out for resources and asked, “if there are single priority requests of city government.”
Edwards answered that there are currently no “actionable items,” but did share that mental health support services are “always short staffed.”
Messmore added that “we could always benefit from more funding.”
The meeting ended with the commissioners seemingly ready to support the DJUSD mental health staff. Fulp-Cooke concluded the discussion by promising that the SCC will “be back in touch with some ideas.”