Student center

Montgomery County allocates $8 million for additional mental health services for students

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Montgomery County Council increases funding for county student services amid a growing mental health crisis among children during the coronavirus pandemic.

The $8 million investment include $2 million towards immediately establishment interim wellness centers at county high schools in existing spaces and moveable classrooms, county officials said. More permanent facilities would be built in each secondary school over a five-year period.

Funding package too allocates $3 million to mental health programs and $3 million to mobile classrooms.

‘A cry for help’: CDC warns of steep decline in teen mental health

Montgomery is one of many school systems across the country that has experienced exacerbated mental health issues among its student body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of an accelerating mental health crisis among young people in a report last month. A CDC survey found that 4 in 10 teens said they felt “persistently sad or hopeless” and 1 in 5 said they had considered suicide. And in October, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency for child and adolescent mental health, noting soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicidal thoughts.

High schools in Northwood, Gaithersburg, Watkins Mill, Wheaton and Seneca Valley already have school-based wellness centers. A sixth is under construction at Kennedy High School.

Community members testified at a council meeting Tuesday that the need for additional resources in schools was urgent.

“The few centers we have are not enough,” Carmen Centeno, who works at the Northwood High Wellness Center, told the board in Spanish through an interpreter. “The challenges facing young people and their families today are countless. We must act now before it is too late.

Back to school brought guns, fights and acting out

Identity, a Rockville-based nonprofit, operates four of the five school-based wellness centers.

The centers provide medical, mental health, and social services to students and their families. Each center also focuses on positive youth development, a county initiative that aims to reduce violence and gang activity and support families who may have been exposed to complex trauma.

Identity Executive Director Diego Uriburu said in an interview that there are huge mental health needs everywhere. Wellness centers have an advantage, he said, because they serve both students and their family members, who may also be struggling. Wellness centers should also help elementary and middle school students, he said.

“These efforts are not just about helping young people heal; it has other benefits as well,” he said. Citing the increase in fighting and bullying that has been reported in schools, Uriburu said having the system make a more robust effort on mental health could help address these issues, he said.

Nancy council member Navarro (D-District 4) led the fundraising effort. He was backed by the Montgomery County School Board and Superintendent Monifa B. McKnight, who over the past few months have heard testimony from students pushing for additional mental health supports after the pandemic maintained many of them in virtual learning and away from their peers. for nearly two years.

McKnight has pledged to allocate additional resources for mental health services in schools. In a letter to parents and other members of the community On Tuesday, McKnight wrote that school leaders were working on other initiatives, including hiring and placing more social workers in high schools and exploring ways to add counselors and psychologists.