State seeks to speed up credentials for school mental health counselors

Faced with a shortage of mental health counselors in schools, the state’s Department of Education seeks to bring 10,000 more professionals to campuses at a time when federal public health officials call for action to address the growing youth mental health crisis in the country.

The adviser’s effort, which requires legislative approval, would be aimed at attracting clinicians to schools through the cancellation and postponement of loans, scholarships to offset education costs and potentially reduce the time needed for clinicians in mental health to obtain their license, Supt. Education Tony Thurmond said Wednesday during a visit to Washington Preparatory High School in south Los Angeles. Thurmond has said he is in talks with lawmakers and is hopeful that a measure, which is expected to cost $ 250 million, can be introduced in the coming weeks.

“I don’t see anything more important right now to deal with the trauma that students and families have gone through,” said Thurmond. “But the reality is that there is a shortage, there just aren’t enough counselors in many schools and communities, urban, suburban, rural.”

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

In December, US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued a rare public advisory that highlighted concerns about a sharp increase in anxiety and depression among young people. The report offers recommendations on what communities – including schools, parents, and tech companies – can do to address this.

Murthy’s advice includes a recommendation to support the expansion of the workforce for mental health professionals.

“In the school environment, governments should invest in building up a pool of school counselors, nurses, social workers and school psychologists,” said the opinion.

Dr Jonathan Goldfinger, pediatrician and general manager of Didi Hirsch mental health services in Los Angeles County, joined Thurmond to talk about the effects of the pandemic on children and how it has led to an increase in bad behavior in schools.

“We are seeing the effects of trauma literally spreading under the skin of children and manifesting itself in behaviors in our classrooms, in our homes, in our communities, in our clinics, that we have really never seen before,” Goldfinger said. “We have had an emerging national emergency or pandemic of mental illness in our youth in the United States because we have not previously invested in our workforce. We have really treated mental health differently from physical health and acted like it isn’t as important, when below all of that mental health is fundamental to physical health.

Loretta Whitson, executive director of the California Assn. school counselors said the proposal is “a good first step” but warned against sending “less qualified people” in a rush to deal with crises.

Aspiring mental health clinicians typically take more than six years of training and extensive clinical work before working full-time, Whitson said. She said that a preliminary certification allowing students to help in school settings could help alleviate the demand facing schools.

There “might be a system in place where they support these advisers,” Whitson said. “As long as they don’t supplant the fully trained ones.”

Efforts to increase access to a mental health career by reducing financial burdens are welcome, Whitson said, as the problem of expanding the workforce will persist as long as schools feel the need for it. .

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

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