The state seeks to speed up credentials for school psychologists

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

The advisory effort, which requires regulatory approval, will aim to lure clinicians into schools through loan forgiveness and deferrals, scholarships to compensate for training costs and potentially reduce the time it takes for mental health clinicians to obtain a license, Supt said. of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond said Wednesday during a visit to Washington Preparatory High School in south Los Angeles. Thurmond said he is in talks with lawmakers and hopes a measure expected to cost $ 250 million could be introduced in the coming weeks.

“I can not think of anything more important right now in terms of dealing with the trauma that students and families have experienced,” Thurmond said. “But the reality is that there is a shortage, there are just not enough counselors in many schools and many communities, cities, suburbs, rural areas.”

For years, educators have warned of a shortage of psychiatric professionals. A 2018 report by researchers at the Healthforce Center at UCSF showed that if current trends continue, 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 needed to meet . the health needs of the state.

In December, US Chief Physician Vivek H. Murthy issued a rare public statement outlining concerns about a sharp rise in anxiety and depression among young people. The report provided recommendations on what communities – including schools, parents and technology companies – can do to address the issue.

Murthy’s council includes a recommendation to support the expansion of the workforce for psychiatric professionals.

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

Dr. Jonathan Goldfinger, a pediatrician and CEO 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 increased school misconduct.

“We see the effects of trauma literally coming under children’s skin and manifesting in behaviors in our classrooms, in our homes, in our communities, in our clinics that we really have never seen before,” Goldfinger said. “In the United States, we have had a national new emergency or pandemic of mental illness in our youth because we have not previously invested in our workforce. We have really treated mental health differently than physical health and acted as if it was not so important. when mental health, on the whole, is fundamental to physical health. “

Loretta Whitson, CEO of California Assn. from school counselors, said the proposal is “a good first step”, but warned against sending “less qualified people” in a hurry to resolve the crises.

Aspiring mental health clinicians typically undergo more than six years of training and extensive clinical work before working full-time, Whitson said. She said a preliminary certification to enable students to help in school environments could help ease the demand that schools face.

There “could be a system in place where they support these advisors,” Whitson said. “As long as they do not displace those who are fully educated.”

Efforts to increase access to a career in mental health by easing financial burdens are welcome, Whitson said, because the problem of expanding the workforce will continue as long as schools see a need.

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

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