Dealing with an increase in scholar psychological well being care wants, the Palo Alto Unified College District is planning to rent its personal psychological well being workers, somewhat than proceed to contract out the overwhelming majority of its program.
The college district at present contracts with outdoors businesses for about 95% of its psychological well being providers, Genavae Pierre-Dixon, the district’s psychological well being specialist, instructed the board throughout its assembly on Tuesday. The shift to offering in-house providers will happen over time and is in its early phases, however board members signaled sturdy assist for the plan.
“We actually want a reenvisioning of what wholesome faculties seem like and really feel like,” board member Jesse Ladomirak instructed district workers. “After studying this plan and listening to you all, I really felt some optimism that we’re taking steps towards that reenvisioning.”
The district intends to start by hiring its personal workers to work at elementary and center faculties, whereas persevering with to make use of contractors at the highschool stage in the intervening time. The change is anticipated to price roughly an extra $1.2 million subsequent faculty 12 months.
The college board did not take a proper vote on the plan. The prices will as an alternative be included within the finances assumptions that come again to the board, Superintendent Don Austin mentioned.
By the autumn, Palo Alto Unified expects to rent 10 associate-level clinicians, plus a number of well being techs for its elementary faculties.
On the center faculty stage, the district is seeking to deliver on one clinician for every of its three campuses to workers the wellness heart 5 days per week.
At the highschool stage, workers intend to collect scholar enter earlier than nailing down a extra detailed plan of what is going to come subsequent.
Palo Alto Unified at present has a $620,391 annual contract with Counseling and Help Providers for Youth (CASSY) to offer a part-time or single full-time psychological well being supplier at every of its elementary faculties. At center and highschool ranges, Palo Alto Unified has a $711,925 contract with CASSY, which offers one therapist for every center faculty and three clinicians at every highschool, when absolutely staffed. In keeping with Austin, CASSY hasn’t been capable of finding sufficient individuals to workers at these ranges this faculty 12 months.
Subsequent faculty 12 months, CASSY’s contract will likely be diminished in order that its workers are solely serving sure particular training college students and excessive schoolers, Austin instructed this information group.
Past CASSY, Palo Alto Unified additionally has a $98,627 contract with Asian People for Neighborhood Involvement (AACI) to offer medical providers in Mandarin and mother or father workshops and an $80,580 contract with Stanford Little one Psychiatry Fellows to offer one-time consultations on high-need particular person instances. These contracts will possible have some adjustments for subsequent faculty 12 months, however the fee will keep roughly the identical, Austin mentioned.
College students had been already reporting excessive ranges of stress and anxiousness earlier than the pandemic, in keeping with a workers report, with COVID-19 and the ensuing faculty closures solely serving to exacerbate these points.
On high of the elevated wants, the district’s contractors have been struggling to search out sufficient certified individuals to fill the anticipated variety of positions. This comes amid broader nationwide staffing points, notably within the psychological well being area.
“Sadly, there have been many gaps in staffing from our contracted businesses this 12 months,” the workers report mentioned. “Even when absolutely staffed at every stage, there have been nonetheless not sufficient certified clinicians to really meet the wants of all our college students.”
District directors imagine that by hiring individuals instantly, they are going to be capable to get extra complete protection and provide extra entry to providers for college kids.
“That is crucial piece of this whole puzzle — that we make it possible for at each one in all our websites we’ve got certified workers who can meet the wants of our college students,” Assistant Superintendent of Fairness and Scholar Affairs Yolanda Conaway mentioned.
Board member Jennifer DiBrienza mentioned she supported the plan, however requested directors how assured they had been that they’d really be capable to rent sufficient individuals. Austin expressed confidence that the district would succeed and mentioned the plan is to start recruiting instantly.
Past offering particular person counselors for college kids with the best wants, the district additionally needs to broaden broader assist for the complete scholar physique. The concept is to have a tiered system, starting from one-on-one remedy to common screening and prevention packages for all college students.
“An built-in, in-house strategy to offering psychological well being providers will construct a group of caring and trusted adults for our college students and a supportive faculty local weather for employees,” mentioned Daybreak Yoshinaga, the district’s not too long ago employed director of psychological well being.
4 individuals referred to as into Tuesday’s assembly to deal with the board on the psychological well being plan. Three had been supportive, whereas one mentioned that the district’s plan continues to be inadequate and requires extra funding.