School-based health conference focuses on multiple threats

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond addressed nearly 1,000 registered guests at this year’s CSHA statewide School-Based Health Conference.  

Nearly 1,000 student health advocates addressethe multiple pandemics facing California’s kidsteens and communities at School Health on the Frontlines: Navigating Pandemics & Building Equity, the California School-Based Health Alliance’s first-ever virtual School-Based Health Conference October 6-8. 

Maryjane Puffer, executive director of The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health and board vice president of CSHA, opened the conference by stating, School-based health centers have always been on the frontlines of healthcare by serving students and communities with the most challenges and least access to our healthcare. This year has been a real test of that system.” 

She pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought families to the brink, and to the unending racial injustices faced by Black, Indigenous and People of Color.” She said, “Our youth are resilient, but they are under incredible strain.”  

She noted that not one of the state’s one thousand local education entities has the recommended number of mental health professionals and only 4% of California school children have access to schoolbased health centers. 

The ultimate equity issue 

Dr. Tony Thurmond, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction said, “These are some of the toughest challenges we’ll see in our lifetimes. He called “healthcare the ultimate equity issue” and said school-based health was a top priority.”  

The opening keynote speaker was Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga, executive director of The Education Trust–West, a research and advocacy organization focused on educational justice and supporting the high achievement of all California students. She said, “I want my son to say in the face of this epidemic that we stood by him. We must do much better, much faster. We must be co-conspirators for justice.” 

The closing keynote was given by Dr. Tichianaa Armah, medical director of Behavioral Health at the Community Health Center Inc., one of Connecticut’s top school-based health center providers, and assistant clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine. Armah outlined the impact of racism on the health and mental health of BIPOC students and communities. She shared compelling evidence of how stress of racial injustice has real health consequences, from stress and negative emotions to low-grade inflammation and chronic disease. 

The CSHA Convention included three days of sessions on topics ranging from sexual and reproductive health to school mental health. The L.A. Trust’s Program Manager Robert Renteria headed a panel on Implementing SBIRT in SBHCs and three staff members from The L.A. Trust served as room hosts. Sixty attendees registered for the conference as guests of The L.A. Trust. 


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