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California launches new campaign to recruit student mental health support

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Secures $20,000 Grants for 10,000 School Counselors and Launches Campaign to Recruit Student Mental Health Supports
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A student taking an exam.

The California Superintendent of Public Instruction launched a recruitment campaign for school councilors to expand mental health support for students grappling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The state's Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced $20,000 in grant opportunities for those aspiring mental health clinicians to support California students. According to Thurmond’s office, the move builds off Senate Bill 1229 to ensure $184 million of the state’s budget is allocated toward teacher and school counselor residency programs and expands an existing $350 million residency program for school counselors. 

“We now have the funding and must recruit mental health clinicians, especially in rural areas and in communities of color, and we will be doing marketing and outreach to make sure that everyone knows these resources are available,” said Superintendent Thurmond in a news release. 

The bill expands the current Golden State Teacher Grant Program to graduate students pursuing degrees to become mental health clinicians who serve California students, allowing them to receive grants up to $20,000.

“This is an important moment. Our students deserve and need to have more support, and we’re grateful to have resources that we can use to help them. We recognize that it will take time to build out many of these wraparound services so our students can heal, recover, and thrive, and that’s why it’s important to embark on this work immediately.”

A recent report from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2021, 37 percent of high school students reported poor mental health during the pandemic. The report found that 44 percent reported they felt sad or hopeless during the past year. 

The CDC analysis also found that more than half of those surveyed experienced emotional abuse by a parent or adult, 11 percent experienced physical abuse, and more than a quarter reported a parent or other adult in their home lost a job. 

“These data echo a cry for help,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental wellbeing. Our research shows that surrounding youth with the proper support can reverse these trends and help our youth now and in the future.”

According to Thurmond’s office, this effort to recruit 10,000 clinicians is part of a larger plan to address workforce challenges in the education sector.

“It is also a centerpiece of his effort to help students heal from the trauma of the pandemic, recover academically, and thrive as they prepare for the future,” Thurdmonds's office wrote in a news release.